The spokesman for Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party was cleared on Thursday of involvement in an attack on a student in 2007, triggering chants and cheers from supporters outside the court room.
Elias Kasidiaris - whose movement entered parliament for the first time in June riding a wave of public anger over austerity and immigration - taunted journalists after the ruling, saying they had reported false accusations against him.
“I said from the first moment that I was innocent. Today the justice system also said that I’m innocent. I rub this court ruling on your face,” said Kasidiaris, calling media outlets “porn channels”.
The party, whose members have been seen giving Nazi-style salutes and whose emblem resembles a swastika, has said it wants to rid Greece of all foreigners including what it calls the “stench” of immigrants.
Rights groups have accused its supporters of carrying out a wave of violent attacks on immigrants, a charge dismissed by the party which says it does not support neo-Nazi ideology or violence.
In 2007, a gang robbed, beat and stabbed a student at an Athens university campus before fleeing in a car that the rental agency said was booked under Kasidiaris’ name.
Kasidiaris, one of Golden Dawn’s members of parliament, denied any wrongdoing and the court ruled there was no evidence to show he had been involved.
Parliament will discuss next week whether to lift the immunity from prosecution granted to Kasidiaris as an MP for a second time to let prosecutors look into an assault against a female politician during last year’s election campaign.
Kasidiaris was filmed slapping a Communist party lawmaker in the face during a live television debate in June. He fled the studio and disappeared from public view until a warrant for his arrest expired two days later.
Earlier this week a prosecutor ordered an investigation into video footage in a documentary aired by Britain’s Channel 4 television channel showing a purported Golden Dawn candidate saying immigrants would be turned into “soap”, recalling the Nazi extermination of Jews during the Holocaust.
The Board of Jewish Communities in Greece said the comments showed a desire “to revive industrialised methods of extermination”.
This story "Greek Neo-Nazi Spokesman Cleared in Attack on Student" was written by Reuters.