New Democracy demanded the resignation of Education Minister Nikos Filis on Thursday after a rally by Pontic Greeks, upset by the government official’s comments earlier this week concerning historical events, culminated in a physical attack on conservative MP Giorgos Koumoutsakos.
“We believe that Education Minister Nikos Filis is the moral instigator and that he should have no place in the current Greek government,” said New Democracy leader Evangelos Meimarakis, who added that his party might submit a censure motion against the cabinet member.
Koumoutsakos was attacked by a mob in front of Parliament on the sidelines of the rally as onlookers shouted “Resign” and “Traitor” at the lawmaker. He was punched by at least one person, had his jacket ripped and his glasses knocked away.
Riot police intervened but did not make any arrests. Police are said to be examining a video of the incident, which clearly shows the faces of the men who attacked Koumoutsakos.
Immediately afterward, the deputy also labeled Filis the “moral instigator” of the assault but later clarified that he meant this as a political, rather than legal, term. The former MEP also suggested that Golden Dawn supporters attacked him. A number of the neo-fascist party’s MPs were spotted in the large crowd in central Athens.
Koumoutsakos singled out far-right MP Antonis Gregos, saying that he saw him in the group from which his attackers emerged.
New Democracy’s comments prompted SYRIZA to accuse New Democracy of trying to appeal to nationalists and the far right. “This will not get them out of their dead end and does not befit a party that wants to be called democratic,” said the leftists.
Pontic Greeks organized the rally after Filis repeated in a TV interview on Monday his belief that the slaughter of tens of thousands of ethnic Greeks living on the shores of the Black Sea by Turkish forces between 1914 and 1923 was ethnic cleansing and not genocide. Greece has recognized the killings as genocide since 1994.