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Greek parliament lifts immunity for six far-right MPs

“The thieves, crooks and those who destroyed the country and sold it off to foreign loan sharks are those who should stand trial."

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Golden Dawn party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris speaks next to the party's lawmaker Ilias Panagiotaros at the Greek parliament on October 16, 2013, prior to the vote to lift the immunity from prosecution of six lawmakers from the Golden Dawn party. (Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images)

Greece's parliament voted Wednesday to end the immunity from prosecution of six far-right Golden Dawn members.

The vote escalates a widening investigation into the party, which is accused of criminal activities.

The fatal stabbing of a left-wing rapper in September, allegedly by a member of the party, sparked outrage in Greece and spurred the criminal investigation into Golden Dawn's leadership.

None of the party's politicians is charged with the murder.

Prosecutors have, however, charged six party members, including its leader Nikos Michaloliakos, with belonging to a criminal organization and has jailed them pending a trial.

Golden Dawn has said the charges are politically motivated.

Greek political parties voted unanimously to lift the immunity, with Golden Dawn MPs walking out during the voting.

"I am being prosecuted for what I believe in, and not for my actions," Panagiotis Iliopoulos, one of the lawmakers whose immunity was lifted, said in parliament before the vote, according to the Associated Press.

“The thieves, crooks and those who destroyed the country and sold it off to foreign loan sharks are those who should stand trial,” the party spokesman said ahead of the vote. “We will not vote, we will abstain from this process.”

Golden Dawn has seen a surge in popularity during the Greek economic crisis.

From a fringe political movement, the party won 18 seats out of 300 in the 2012 elections. It has become the third most popular party nationally in Greece.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/131016/greek-parliament-lifts-immunity-six-far-right-mps