ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Three lawmakers from Greece's extremist right-wing Golden Dawn party were released from custody Wednesday pending trial, after they provided initial testimony in criminal investigation triggered by the slaying of a left-wing rapper.
An Athens court released party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris on a 50,000 euro ($67,770) bail and a ban on leaving the country. No bail was set for Ilias Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos, who were also banned from leaving the country.
A fourth lawmaker, Ioannis Lagos, was jailed pending trial. The four had been testifying before an investigative magistrate in a court session that began Tuesday afternoon and lasted through the night, ending mid-morning Wednesday.
"This essentially changes nothing. There charges stand, the investigation is ongoing and the evidence is being gathered," Interior Minister Yiannis Michelakis said on Skai television. "We are at the first stage of this investigation."
The head of the party, Nikos Michaloliakos, who is also detained, was to testify later in the day, while a sixth lawmaker is scheduled to appear in court Thursday.
The three lawmakers who were released stormed out of the court building, with Kasidiaris punching a television camera as he went. They swore at journalists as they headed out of the court complex and waited on the street outside to flag down a taxi.
Golden Dawn's leadership was arrested over the weekend in a crackdown sparked by last month's stabbing death of 34-year-old leftwing rapper Pavlos Fyssas. All face charges of setting up or participating in a criminal organization.
The man arrested at the scene of the stabbing identified himself to police as a member of Golden Dawn. The party has vehemently denied any role in the killing.
"It is clear that the judiciary has refused to follow the orders of a government enslaved to foreigners," the party said in a statement posted on its website after Thursday morning's court decision to free three of the four lawmakers. "The unconstitutional, blatantly illegal government conspiracy is collapsing under the huge weight of truth and common sense."
A total of 32 arrest warrants were issued in the case, including two for police officers. Authorities have been continuing raids on the homes of police officers with suspected ties to criminal activities linked to the party.
Golden Dawn, a Nazi-inspired party which rose from the margins of Greece's political scene to become the third most popular party in Greece amid the country's severe financial crisis, has long been blamed for a series of violent attacks, most against immigrants.
Rights groups and medical charities have long warned of an increase in the viciousness and frequency of attacks attributed to party members or supporters. But the death of Fyssas on Sept. 17 was the most serious crime attributed directly to an alleged party member.