Coalition leaders on Wednesday sought a common front, which could involve tighter legal restrictions, to tackle Golden Dawn after a 45-year-old supporter of the far-right party was arrested for stabbing to death an anti-fascist rapper in southern Athens.
Pavlos Fyssas, 34, was stabbed in the neighborhood of Amfiali at around midnight on Tuesday after a group of about 50 Golden Dawn supporters chased him and his friends from a cafe where they had been watching a soccer match.
The incident drew condemnation from the other parliamentary parties. Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos held a scheduled meeting on Tuesday evening, in which the issue of how to tackle neo-fascist Golden Dawn was discussed in depth.
Sources said the leaders agreed that the government should adopt a two-pronged approach that involves using all the legal powers provided by criminal law to put a stranglehold on the party and to combat its image as a so-called “anti-systemic” force, which is seen as attracting much of its support amid growing anger about Greece’s economic plight.
“Golden Dawn uses violence as its main tool and must be treated as a criminal organization,” said Venizelos. “It has now gone beyond all limits. The state must intervene.”
The Greek Constitution does not provide for the banning of a political party and there is doubt in the government camp about whether such a measure would be effective. However, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias suggested that the government could look at ways of changing the law on what constitutes a criminal gang, thereby allowing authorities, who raided Golden Dawn headquarters on Wednesday, to rein in the far-right party.
However, the possibility of uniting all parliamentary parties behind a common agenda appeared to take a buffering on Tuesday night when Samaras’s closest adviser, Chrysanthos Lazaridis, claimed that SYRIZA was not part of the "constitutional axis" and accused the party of tolerating left-wing violence.
Fyssas’s murder put Greece in the international spotlight again and Austrian MEP Hannes Swoboda, who heads the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, suggested that the country might even have to forgo taking over the rotating EU presidency in January. “It is crucial that the Greek government and Parliament draw clear conclusions and come up with solid proposals on how to stop these violent extremist attacks, including the possibility of banning the party altogether,” he said.
“If the Greek government and Prime Minister Samaras fail to put a stop to the hate-filled behavior of Golden Dawn and other fascist groups, it will be an unacceptable presidency and not likely to bring any progress, either for Europe or for Greece,” added Swoboda.
The police issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon summarizing the events surround the death of Fyssas, who was a hip-hop artist known as Killah P. The police said a caller telephoned the force’s emergency response unit just before midnight, reporting that some 50 people with clubs were heading toward the Korali cafe in Amfiali where, it subsequently emerged, Fyssas had been watching the soccer match earlier when an argument broke out. The police said they dispatched eight members of the force’s motorcycle-riding squad DIAS within “a minute and a half” of that call. On arrival at the scene, officers saw around 30 people outside the Korali and, some distance away, two men fighting, the police statement said. The victim was covered in blood from two wounds to the chest, inflicted by a knife which officers found close to the alleged perpetrator’s parked car. The victim reportedly identified his attacker before losing consciousness and being transferred to a local hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.
The assailant was arrested shortly after midnight and subjected to police questioning during which he reportedly said he had not been at the cafe at the time of the argument but drove to the scene in his car after receiving a call from one of the individuals who had argued with Fyssas and his friends. Police spokesman Christos Parthenis told reporters that the perpetrator confessed to killing Fyssas and admitted to belonging to “a specific political party.” The police did not name Golden Dawn explicitly but officers raided several of the party’s offices after the attack.
A search of the suspect’s home turned up a Taser. Meanwhile, the suspect’s wife has been charged with making a false statement after claiming to have thrown away an extendable truncheon and Golden Dawn pamphlets that had been in the couple’s home. An extendable truncheon was subsequently found in a raid on the office of the head of Golden Dawn’s Piraeus chapter, who was also arrested, the police statement said. The suspect’s wife is alleged to have worked as treasurer at GD’s Piraeus office.
Protesters clashed with riot squad officers near the Keratsini precinct on Tuesday evening, leading to 23 people being arrested.