A supporter of Greece's extreme right party Golden Dawn raises his hand in a Nazi-style salute during a rally in Athens on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014. About 3,000 people took part in the rally to commemorate a 1996 incident which cost the lives of three navy officers and brought Greece and Turkey to the brink of war. Six lawmakers of the party, including the Golden Dawn's leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, are in jail on charges of being members of a "criminal organization." A formerly marginal group with neo-Nazi roots, Golden Dawn exploded in popularity amid Greece's financial crisis. (AP Photo/Yannis Kolesidis) AP Photo/Yannis Kolesidis
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Greece’s leading neo-Nazi group, Golden Dawn, has been given the go-ahead by the country’s highest court to participate in the upcoming European Union parliament elections, Agence France-Presse reported.
A lawyer for Golden Dawn announced the news over the weekend.
"We expected this decision. We have faith in Greek justice," Pavlos Sarakis told AFP.
The ruling from the Court of Cassation that the neo-Nazi group can now participate in upcoming EU and local elections comes even as the group is under investigation for multiple crimes and six of its 18 leaders await trial behind bars.
Once a fringe political group with little sway, Golden Dawn’s recent elevated status in Greek politics has coincided with the country's disastrous debt crisis. Golden Dawn's steady rise to fame has also prompted several investigations into the group’s alleged involvement in a number of serious crimes, including assault and murder.
However, because Greek law states that a candidate is ineligible to run only if he has been convicted of a crime, the court ruled that the group is still eligible to participate in the elections because its leaders are merely under investigation.
A spokesman for the neo-Nazi group accused Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his conservative-led coalition of staging a witch hunt, adding that the government is persecuting the group because of its popularity with the Greek people.
Samaras denies the group’s claim and has in the past said that he would like to see Golden Dawn defeated in the realm of ideas and not banned outright.
Still, in an effort to avoid being banned from future EU and local elections, which are scheduled for May 18 and 25, Golden Dawns established a spinoff group named “Hellenic Dawn,” AFP reported.
Although Golden Dawn has seen a notable increase in popularity, polling at around 8 percent, according to AFP, it still falls far behind Greece's major parties, which generally poll at around 18-20 percent.
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