Police on Friday night stood guard outside a site in Votanikos, near central Athens, that has been slated for the creation of the capital’s first mosque after arresting 15 nationalists who had been occupying the premises.
The raid was carried out early on Friday by riot police who arrived at the scene with a prosecutor. The intervention came after the Greek state, which is to fund the construction of the mosque, brought a legal suit against those on the site for disturbing the peace. Fifteen people were escorted from the grounds peacefully.
According to sources, 10 of the 15 had been detained in the past on a string of charges ranging from fraud and theft to drug dealing. Police confiscated knives, axes and flares from the grounds.
The squatters, who have been on the site since July, set up a makeshift church on the premises where the mosque is to be built. They had named their initiative “The Homeless Hostel,” saying they were giving poor Greeks the support that the state gives to migrants in reception facilities.
Most of the people escorted off the premises belong to nationalist or reservist associations but they denied links to neo-Nazi Golden Dawn even though the party has publicly supported their initiative.
Following a rally outside the site last Sunday, where the key speaker was GD leader Nikos Michaloliakos, the party’s spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris and another prominent MP, Ilias Panagiotaros, visited the premises on Friday after the raid and condemned police for intervening at a site “for Greeks” while ignoring hundreds of makeshift mosques in the capital.
Kasidiaris accused the government of trying to Islamicize Greece and of “racism against Greeks.”
Earlier this week, the general secretary of Greece’s Justice Ministry, Costis Papaioannou, said the protesters’ actions were “reminiscent of past manifestations of hate which pose a threat to law, order and security.”