Golden Dawn acknowledges and upholds the law only when it suits it, Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis told Parliament on Friday during a heated exchange with a lawmaker from the neo-Nazi party.
Kontonis was referring to an incident earlier this week during which Golden Dawn lawmaker Yiannis Lagos and supporters led an assault against an elementary school in Perama, near Piraeus, in protest at plans to open up the school to migrant and refugee children from a nearby camp.
The minister’s comments came after he was challenged by far-right MP Nikos Michos over the burning of a Greek flag during an event last November commemorating the student uprising against the 1967-1974 military dictatorship.
“The timing of this discussion… is interesting, because just a few days ago, Golden Dawn officials and lawmakers broke the law in an organized and provocative manner by entering a school, abusing teachers, and threatening and insulting citizens,” Kontonis said of the neo-Nazi party, which is on trial for constituting a criminal organization.
“They can break the law whenever they want and for whatever reason. They can abuse and injure citizens over issues that they believe should be deemed unlawful, but when it comes to other issues, they like to present themselves as guardians of the law. Your party neither respects the law nor seeks to uphold it,” the minister said.
The discussion became even more heated after Michos countered that the events in Perama were “nothing” compared to the burning of the flag and accused supporters of ruling left-wing SYRIZA of being “terrorists who vandalize Golden Dawn offices and burn flags.”
“Patriots show their stuff in times of strife, not of peace, so don’t pretend to be patriots in times of peace,” Kontonis countered. “The people’s uprising at the Polytechnic was about defending the nation’s freedom and dignity, during a government of the junta, which you so admire.”
In a related development, an Athens prosecutor on Friday was expected to examine a lawsuit filed by Golden Dawn against popular daytime TV hostess Tatiana Stefanidou over comments she made on her show on Epsilon TV earlier in the week in reference to the Perama incident, accusing Lagos of employing bullying tactics. She also hung up the phone on a caller defending Golden Dawn's presence at the school, saying she would not allow her show to be used as a platform in support of such actions.
Witnesses at the school said that the group of neo-Nazis was led by the prominent Golden Dawn lawmaker.
“The assault was launched by Mr Lagos, who verbally abused a policeman who had been outside the school,” Stavros Kalonis, a member of the national teachers’ federation, had told Skai of the neo-Nazi MP for Piraeus in the wake of the raid. “Afterward a group of Golden Dawners barged in and started beating us.”