Golden Dawn leader remanded in custody pending trial [update]

Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos has been ordered to remain in custody pending trial.

Earlier, the leader of Greece's neo-Nazi party defended himself before a magistrate on charges of setting up a criminal organization.

During a marathon session at the Evelpidon court complex in Athens that went on until the early hours of Thursday, Michaloliakos denied the charges which he refuted as politically-motivated.

“I feel sorry for the murder of [Pavlos] Fyssas,” Michaloliakos said of the 34-year-old rapper that was stabbed to death by a Golden Dawn member last month.

“I condemn [the murder], like I condemn violence in general. I am not a Nazi,” said the 56-year-old mathematician.

Michaloliakos said he had no knowledge if individual members of Golden Dawn have broken the law. But the activity of the party, he said, has been within the contours of parliamentary politics.

The decision on Michaloliakos followed a testimony by Giorgos Patelis, the head of the local chapter of Golden Dawn in Nikaia, southwest of Athens, close to the run-down district of Keratsini where Fyssas was stabbed. Patelis, whose testimony was completed around 3.30 a.m. on Thursday, was also remanded in custody.

On Wednesday, three senior Golden Dawn lawmakers were freed pending trial – a surprise decision that fueled skepticism about the solidity of the state's case against the ultranationalist party.

Party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris and fellow lawmakers Ilias Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos stormed out of the court to cheers of “bravo” from supporters. They kicked and shoved journalists out of the way before hailing a taxi.

A fourth MP, Yiannis Lagos, was remanded in custody after a prosecutor and magistrate agreed that he was both a flight risk and likely to reoffend. It remained unclear why judicial officials believed that the same did not apply to Michos or to Kasidiaris, who faces a separate trial for assaulting two female MPs on live television last year.

Golden Dawn's second-in-command according to prosecutors, Christos Pappas, is scheduled to appear before a magistrate at 10 a.m. on Thursday.

Also late on Wednesday police announced the arrest of Golden Dawn candidate Themis Skordeli. Reports said police found 145,000 euros in her apartment.