The leader of neofascist Golden Dawn, Nikos Michaloliakos, was remanded in custody on Thursday pending trial for setting up a criminal organization, and his second-in-command Christos Pappas was ordered to return to custody later in the day, in an unprecedented decision that bolstered the government’s efforts to crack down on the party which has been linked to crime and violence.
Escorted by a heavy police guard, Michaloliakos was transferred to Athens’ high-security Korydallos Prison on Thursday evening along with Golden Dawn’s MP for Piraeus, Yiannis Lagos.
During nearly six hours of testimony before a magistrate that started late on Wednesday and finished in the early hours of Thursday, Michaloliakos reportedly condemned the murder of 34-year-old leftist hip-hop Pavlos Fyssas in Nikaia, near Piraeus, last month by a self-confessed GD supporter while claiming to be unaware if any party members were involved in violence. Leaving the Evelpidon court complex at 4 a.m. he exclaimed, “Long live Golden Dawn!” and “Victory.”
Giorgos Patelis, the head of the party’s chapter in nearby Nikaia, and a female police office based at the Piraeus precinct were also ordered to be remanded yesterday, the latter at Elaionas Prison in Thebes and the former at Malandrino Prison in central Greece.
Questioned about Patelis in court, Michaloliakos reportedly claimed not to know him although he worked at the party’s central offices.
Later in the day, a magistrate and prosecutor ordered that Pappas also be remanded in custody following a six-hour deposition during which he reportedly denied all charges, following the example of his fellow deputies. Three MPs – Ilias Kasidiaris, Ilias Panayiotaros and Nikos Michas – were given conditional release on Wednesday in a move that shocked many top government officials.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told ANT1 TV station that Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who was rounding an official trip to the US on Thursday, was “surprised” at the decision to release the three deputies. Describing the government’s crackdown on Golden Dawn as “the most dynamic confrontation of a neo-Nazi criminal organization in history,” Kedikoglou expressed confidence that they would be brought to justice. “They face extremely heavy charges,” he said.
A police investigation into alleged criminal activity by members of Golden Dawn and a parallel internal affairs probe into suspected links between GD and the force yielded further arrests on Thursday, including five party members in Serres and Patra and a would-be political candidate for Golden Dawn in Athens.
An ongoing police investigation into a violent assault in Perama, near Piraeus, last month on nine members of the Communist Party (KKE) by a group of around 50 suspected members and supporters of Golden Dawn meanwhile has reportedly yielded further indications that the far-right party has been operating as a criminal organization in the mold of the Nazi Fuehrerprinzip with a strict chain of command.
Witnesses have already identified four Golden Dawn members as perpetrators in the attack and the four have been charged with assault. But the wiretapping of phone calls between party officials has helped authorities bolster the case against the party, suggesting that the attack had been premeditated, probably in coordination with high-ranking officials.
According to police, a 34-year-old suspected member of Golden Dawn who turned himself in to the Athens police on Thursday and is believed to have coordinated the attack on the KKE members in Perama telephoned Patelis, the head of GD’s Nikaia chapter, after Fyssas’s murder. If confirmed, the pattern would resemble the one allegedly followed by Golden Dawn officials on the night of Fyssas’s murder when, according to police, Lagos telephoned Michaloliakos.
Testimony by witnesses to the Perama assault has also implicated GD’s MP for Piraeus. One witness said he saw Lagos arrive at the scene shortly after the beating, which left nine KKE people in hospital, and start shouting at police who had subsequently raided the Perama offices of Golden Dawn.