NEWS

Three Golden Dawn MPs are released as party leader faces judge

The leader of ultra-right Golden Dawn, Nikos Michaloliakos, was defending himself before a magistrate late into Wednesday night on charges of setting up a criminal organization following the unexpected release earlier in the day of three of his party’s MPs pending trial while a fourth was remanded in custody.

Michaloliakos was expected to argue that the charges against him, and his fellow deputies, were politically motivated.

Party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris reportedly struck a similar tone in his testimony, which ran late into Tuesday night, ahead of his release on bail on Wednesday along with two other lawmakers, Ilias Panayiotaros and Nikos Michos. All three deputies were banned from leaving the country while Kasidiaris was ordered to post 50,000 euros in bail.

A fourth MP, Yiannis Lagos, was remanded in custody after a prosecutor and magistrate agreed that he was both a flight risk and likely to reoffend. It remained unclear why judicial officials believed that the same did not apply to Michos or to Kasidiaris, who faces a separate trial for assaulting two female MPs on live television last year.

Leaving the Evelpidon court complex, the three MPs given conditional release appeared defiant. Kasidiaris pushed and kicked two photographers and cursed journalists before getting into a taxi to the Athens police headquarters (GADA) with Michos and Panayiotaros. After collecting his belongings from GADA, Michos told reporters in an apparently veiled threat: “We’re going to have fun now. We’re going to see this through to the end.”

As the judicial investigation into Golden Dawn’s activities gets under way, a police internal affairs probe into suspected links between the force and Golden Dawn has yielded results.

A 37-year-old female police officer who was based at the Piraeus precinct and is alleged to have played a key role in providing Golden Dawn with information was remanded in custody. She is said to have received a telephone call from a member of the local chapter of Golden Dawn shortly after the murder of the leftist hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas by a self-professed party supporter last month.

Meanwhile a 54-year-old senior official of the security police who served for three years as the head of the precinct in Aghios Panteleimonas, a run-down district near central Athens, quit following his arrest by internal affairs officers. Dozens of weapons were found at the home of the 54-year-old, who is accused of blackmailing immigrants, selling guns and offering protection to gambling dens. A 60-year-old retired police officer, the latter’s wife, and a political candidate for Golden Dawn, Themis Skordeli, have been implicated in the same investigation.

In a related development, a Thessaloniki court issued a suspended 10-month prison sentence to a 41-year-old officer of the force’s motorcycle-riding Z Unit, allegedly a supporter of Golden Dawn, for possession of accessories for weapons including a Glock pistol.