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Golden Dawn heads to face trial

The leader of neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party and most of its recently elected MPs will go on trial soon on submitted charges of belonging to a criminal organization.

"In its final report, the (judicial) council decided that 72 defendants, including Golden Dawn's leader and its former parliamentary group, will stand trial for leading and participating in a criminal organization," one of the court officials, asking not to be identified, told Reuters.

Golden Dawn had 16 lawmakers in parliament before it was dissolved ahead of the election. Thirteen of the lawmakers were re-elected on January 25.

A date for the trial has not yet been set but it will take place soon, the officials said. If convicted, the defendants could face up to 20 years in prison. The party denies the allegations and says the defendants are victims of a political witch-hunt.

Golden Dawn leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, the party's former spokesman and prominent lawmaker Ilias Kasidiaris and five other outgoing lawmakers are in pre-trial detention. A further three lawmakers are under house arrest. The judges decided not to lift any of the restrictions imposed on the accused.

The Golden Dawn arrests were the most significant mass round-up of lawmakers since Greece's 1967 military coup.

Golden Dawn is one of Europe's most anti-immigrant parties, known for its swastika-like emblem which it says is the ancient Greek "meander" symbol.

A legal crackdown on Golden Dawn ensued after a party supporter stabbed an anti-racism rapper in 2013, prompting a wave of protests.

Despite the charges, Golden Dawn took third place in the Jan. 25 snap general election but saw its share of the vote fall slightly from just under 7% to 6.3%, good for 17 seats in Greece's 300-seat parliament.