The government is due to submit in Parliament draft legislation on Monday that would suspend state funding to political parties whose leaders or lawmakers have had criminal charges brought against them as part of an unprecedented crackdown over the weekend on neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn.
Police on Saturday arrested the leader of Golden Dawn, Nikos Michaloliakos, as well as another five MPs and at least 13 party officials following an investigation by a Supreme Court prosecutor into criminal activities linked to the party, including the murder earlier this month of leftist hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a supporter of Golden Dawn.
The detainees were given an extension to prepare their defense and were expected to appear before a magistrate Tuesday or Wednesday on charges of belonging to a criminal organization.
The arrests – the first such crackdown since the fall of Greece’s military junta in 1974 – followed rumors over the weekend of mass resignations by deputies of the ultra-right party, a move that could prompt by-elections, and fueled speculation about broader political upheaval. Government officials ruled out the possibility of snap general elections with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras reportedly telling journalists, shortly before flying to the US for an official visit on Saturday, that the government’s immediate goals were “justice, stability; not elections.”
The crackdown began early on Saturday with the arrest of Michaloliakos at his home in Pefki, north of Athens. Officers then arrested party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris and the lawmakers Yiannis Lagos, Ilias Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos. Among the 13 party officials arrested was 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 fatally stabbed earlier this month by a self-professed supporter of Golden Dawn, Giorgos Roupakias. A member of the police force’s motorcycle-riding unit, DIAS, and a female officer from the police precinct of Piraeus were also arrested.
Christos Pappas, a sixth Golden Dawn MP and the party’s second-in-command, according to prosecutors, turned himself in to the police on Sunday. He arrived at the Athens police headquarters by taxi and was taken inside after declaring, “We will be back, long live Golden Dawn.” On Saturday, during their transfer, in handcuffs, to the capital’s court complex from the police headquarters Michaloliakos, Kasidiaris and other lawmakers shouted out similar slogans to reporters.
Greek media reported on Sunday that Lagos, a Golden Dawn MP for Piraeus, telephoned Michaloliakos half an hour after the murder of Fyssas on September 18, while both of the detained police officers are alleged to have spoken to Patelis that night.
The female officer, meanwhile, is alleged to have been telling Piraeus store-owners who complained to the police about immigrants in the area to contact the local Golden Dawn chapter for help.
Police raided the homes of all the suspects in a bid to find incriminating evidence over the weekend with a search on Michaloliakos’s house turning up three guns – all without licenses – as well as ammunition and more than 40,000 euros in cash, the origin of which was unclear. Party officials kept heavy weaponry in several hideouts across Attica, according to an ongoing investigation.
Government officials hope that depriving the party of funding will curb its activities, which are being probed by the judiciary and by the Greek Police.
The latter, meanwhile, has launched an internal affairs investigation into suspected links between the force and the party.
A nine-page report compiled by Supreme Court deputy prosecutor Haralambos Vourliotis just five days after a probe was launched into 33 offenses attributed to Golden Dawn, said the party operated as a criminal organization and leveled charges against party MPs and officials of belonging to a criminal organization. The charge sheet is said to include 10 counts of murder and attempted murder as well as blackmail, while additional charges of money laundering are reportedly being considered.
According to the prosecutor’s report, the organization operated under a strict hierarchy with Michaloliakos – nicknamed “Fuehrer” – overseeing all decisions and Pappas his second-in-command.