28 Sep 2013

Golden Dawn leader and MPs arrested

Greek police arrest two MPs and the leader of Golden Dawn in a crackdown on the right-wing political party, after a politically-motivated murder earlier this month.

Greek police arrested four leaders of the right-wing Golden Dawn party and declared the political party “a criminal organisation” on Saturday morning. The arrested include two MPs, and leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos who have been charged with “belonging to a criminal organisation”. One party member has been charged with being an accomplice to a murder two weeks ago.

The murder – of the left-wing Greek rapper Pavlos Fissas on 17 September – has sparked the crackdown on the party, as police investigate the connections between the party and the death. On the night of Tuesday 17, the anti-fascist musician Mr Fissas was watching a football match with his girlfriend when he surrounded by up to 30 people and stabbed three times. Five other arrest warrants have been issued for other members of the party.

Street riots followed Mr Fissas’ murder, and the ban on the party could cause further unrest.

Golden Dawn – Greece’s third most popular party, according to opinion polls with 18 MPs in Parliament – has denied any links to the rapper’s killing and Mr Mihaloliakos has warned it may pull its lawmakers from parliament if the crackdown does not stop.

Read more: Paul Mason on how the Golden Dawn arrests could shake the Greek government

Party leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, three other lawmakers and more than 10 members of the party were arrested on charges of founding and participating in a criminal organisation.

“Nothing can scare us!,” shouted a handcuffed Kasidiaris, flanked by hooded police officers carrying machine guns on his way to face a prosecutor.

Police also confiscated two guns and a hunting rifle from Mihaloliakos’ home, saying he did not have a licence for them.

Following the arrest several hundered Golden Dawn supporters held a rally outside police headquarters chanting “Long live the leader!” and “Blood, Honour, Golden Dawn”.

“Golden Dawn is here; It will not back down. You cannot jail ideas,” Golden Dawn MP Artemis Mattheopoulos, who is not among those detained, told reporters.

The party is ranked as Greece’s most third popular party with 15 per cent of the vote in opinion polls before the stabbing took place.