Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, the leader of Greece’s extreme-right Golden Dawn party, was jailed on Thursday pending trial on charges of running a criminal organisation in an investigation triggered by the fatal stabbing of a left-wing rap singer.
The head of Greece’s extreme-right Golden Dawn party was jailed on Thursday pending trial on charges of belonging to a criminal organisation.
Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, a member of parliament, was remanded in custody in the early hours of the morning following an overnight plea hearing at an Athens court that lasted for more than six hours.
Armed police led him away from the courthouse in handcuffs. His wife and daughter, who are also party members, as well as other Golden Dawn members of parliament, stood outside and shouted encouragement to him as he was led away.
Earlier, as Mihaloliakos was brought to court by police, about 200 party supporters carrying Greek flags shouted, “Blood, honour, Golden Dawn”.
Mihaloliakos and five of his MPs were among 20 people arrested at the weekend in a crackdown against the Nazi-inspired party following the September 17 fatal stabbing of left-wing rap singer Pavlos Fyssas by a party sympathiser.
Three Golden Dawn members released
On Wednesday, the court ordered the release of three other party lawmakers in the same case, also pending trial.
The party’s spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris, was released on bail of 50,000 euros, while fellow MPs Ilias Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos were also freed.
After the hearing the three men stormed out of the building, with Kasidiaris punching a television cameraman and kicking a photographer. They swore at and threatened journalists as they headed out of the court complex, and again later as they left police headquarters after collecting their personal belongings.
A fourth Golden Dawn legislator, Yannis Lagos, was remanded in custody. All four deny the charges.
It is the first time since democracy was restored in Greece in 1974 that sitting members of parliament have been arrested and jailed. The arrests follow a vow by the Greek government to eradicate Golden Dawn, which it says acts as a criminal organisation rather than a political party.
Party losing support
Golden Dawn, which is blamed for a series of violent attacks targeting immigrants, rose from being a fringe party to win 18 seats in parliament in last year’s election.
It has drawn on anger over the debt crisis, budget cuts, high unemployment and corruption to become Greece’s third most popular party, acording to opinion polls.
But the latest polls show it has lost about a third of its support since Fyssas’s murder.
Another senior Golden Dawn lawmaker, Christos Pappas, will face the magistrates later on Thursday to respond to the charges.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-10-03