Sunday, September 29, 2013

Greek neo-fascist party leader and senior members arrested

Greek police arrested the leader and more than a dozen senior members from the far-Right Golden Dawn on Saturday after the killing of an anti-fascist rapper by a party supporter prompted outrage and protests across the country.

Nikos Michaloliakos
The party’s leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, three other MPs and around a dozen members were arrested on charges of founding a criminal organisation. They are due to appear in court on Sunday to be charged formally.
It is the first time since the military dictatorship ended in 1974 that sitting members of parliament have been arrested. The arrests underline the Greek government’s efforts to stifle the fiercely anti-immigrant party, which has been increasingly on the defensive since the fatal stabbing.
The rapidly growing neo-fascist group enjoyed unprecedented success in last year’s national elections, stunning political observers by winning 6.97 per cent of the vote — making it Greece’s third most popular political party.
Ilias Panagiotaros is escorted by anti-terrorism police officers as he arrives at a courthouse in Athens 
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’s coalition government has so far resisted calls to ban the party, fearing it could make it even more popular at a time of growing anger at repeated rounds of austerity measures. Instead, it has tried to undermine the party by ordering probes that could deprive it of state funding.
Golden Dawn officials condemned Saturday’s arrests as an “illegal decision”, and have already threatened to quit parliament if the crackdown on its members does not stop.
Any such move would prompt by-elections which could topple the coalition, which holds only a slim majority with 155 seats in the 300-seat parliament.
Yannis Lagos of Golden Dawn arrives at the courthouse. 
Mr Samaras ruled out snap elections in the wake of the arrests, while Haralambos Athanassiou, the justice minister, insisted all those arrested would receive a fair trail.
Saturday’s swoop on the party came days after massive street protests in Athens against the murder of Pavlos Fyssas, an activist singer with the stage name of Killah P, who was stabbed to death in an Athens commuter town on Sept 17.
His death caused riots across the country. Although Golden Dawn denied it had anything to do with the killing, the alleged murderer was a self-proclaimed supporter. Popular support for the party has dropped by a third this month since the death of Fyssas. The party has a long record of controversy. Its black T-shirt-wearing henchmen have been involved in numerous attacks on immigrants in the capital, with elements of the security services accused of colluding with the party.

Ilias Kasidiaris is taken to the prosecutor's office. 
Mr Michaloliakos, who gave a Nazi salute upon being appointed to a seat on the Athens town council in 2010, is a devotee of George Papadopoulos, the former Greek dictator and spent time in prison in the late 1970s for an assault and attempted bombing attack. Last year he denied the existence of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps.
His wife Eleni Zaroulia, who entered parliament in June 2012, also attracted widespread criticism when she appeared wearing a ring in the shape of the Iron Cross, the military decoration of the Nazi armed forces.
Spokesman Kasidiaris, a former commando, infamously hit female Communist MP Liana Kanelli across the face during a talk show debate in June 2012. A fellow MP threatened to remove immigrant children from hospitals to make room for Greek babies.

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