NEWS

Gov't to step up legal pressure on Golden Dawn

More than 30 criminal cases involving Golden Dawn MPs and members are to be investigated by the judiciary, possibly under stricter laws relating to criminal organizations, as the government seeks to place a legal stranglehold around the far-right party in the wake of the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas by one of its supporters.

Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias and Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou met on Thursday night to discuss the government’s approach to the matter. Dendias had earlier sent to the Supreme Court 32 case files relating to incidents involving neofascists since last year. If the judiciary applies the law for criminal organizations, any of the offenses that are misdemeanors will automatically be turned into felonies, which entail stiffer sentences.

The option of trying to ban Golden Dawn has been ruled out, with government sources saying that the aim must be to “act effectively rather than in the heat of the moment.”

The effort to step up the legal pressure on the extremist party came as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras attempted to defuse the political tension caused by this week’s murder. “This is not the time for internal disputes or tension,” added Samaras with a reference to the damage being inflicted on Greece’s image abroad.

He called for political unity to combat the rise of extremism. “Democracy is much stronger than its enemies realize,” he said in his brief televised address, which sought to calm the political waters after SYRIZA reacted angrily to Samaras’s adviser, Chrysanthos Lazaridis, associating the leftists with violence and arguing that they were not part of the “constitutional axis.”

A more conciliatory tone was also adopted in Parliament. “We must be measured and serious,” said SYRIZA’s Dimitris Papadimoulis. “The shock caused by this death obliges all of us to change the way we behave.” Parliament also held a minute’s silence in honor of Fyssas but only at the second attempt as SYRIZA withdrew its initial request because of an interjection by Golden Dawn.

In a bid to rein in Golden Dawn, Dendias on Thursday night sent Supreme Court prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani a list of offenses that are believed to have been carried out by members or supporters of Golden Dawn and asked for those offenses to be treated as if carried out by a criminal organization as this would mean they carry stiffer sentences. Dendias’s request came a day after he had suggested that authorities would seek to extend two articles of the penal code, one regarding criminal organizations and the other armed gangs. The aim of the initiative, according to sources, is to curb the activities of hit squads of far-right supporters who have been targeting immigrants and leftists in violent attacks.

A police investigation into the circumstances surrounding the murder of Fyssas by 45-year-old Giorgos Roupakias late on Tuesday suggested that the latter received more than one call on his cell phone shortly before the time of the killing. Roupakias has reportedly admitted to driving to the cafe in Amfiali, where Fyssas had been watching a soccer game with friends before an argument broke out between them and a group of far-rightists, and killing Fyssas a short distance away from the cafe. But it remains unclear who called for Roupakias’s assistance.

An anti-fascist rally held in Nikaia on Thursday night to protest the murder of Fyssas, who was buried earlier in the day at a cemetery in Schisto amid a large but peaceful crowd, drew about 4,000 people. There had been no reports of violence in Nikaia by late on Thursday night but a rally in Patra was marred by isolated outbreaks of violence.

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