Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Golden Dawn suspect stays defiant

Leader of the extreme far-right Golden Dawn party Nikos Michaloliakos, centre, is escorted by anti-terror police at the court in Athens.

A Greek lawmaker sought by police surrendered on Sunday, bringing to six the number of legislators from the extreme-right Golden Dawn party now in custody and accused of being members of a criminal organisation with intent to commit crimes.

The government crackdown on the fiercely anti-immigrant party marks the first time since 1974 that sitting members of a Greek Parliament have been arrested.

The arrests underline the government's efforts to stifle Golden Dawn, which has been increasingly on the defensive since the September 17 fatal stabbing of a Greek man blamed on a Golden Dawn supporter.

Thirteen Golden Dawn members and two police officers also have been taken into custody and arrest warrants issued for 11 other suspects who remain at large, officials said.

As he turned himself in at police headquarters in Athens on Sunday, Christos Pappas - a lawmaker described by prosecutors as the Golden Dawn's No 2 official - condemned the crackdown on his party and the painful austerity measures that have been imposed during the bailout of Greece's battered economy.

Several Greek TV channels broadcast his arrival live, showing him leaving a taxi, ducking under the cordon surrounding the building and turning to the cameras.

"I present myself voluntarily. I have nothing to hide, nothing to fear. The occupation government of the bailout deals has begun unprecedented political persecutions, using so-called independent justice. Nationalism will prevail. Golden Dawn will survive," he said.

Pappas then shouted, "Hail Golden Dawn!" and waved as he entered the building.

Five other legislators from the party have been in custody there since Saturday, including Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos.

They were formally charged with membership in a criminal organisation with intent to commit crimes, and Pappas will be also.

They are scheduled to appear before a magistrate on Tuesday. Given the seriousness of the charge they face, the arrested Golden Dawn suspects are expected to be transferred to a prison as they await trial.

However, the jailed lawmakers will remain members of parliament and only lose their seats if they are convicted or resign.

The government said on Sunday that it plans to introduce legislation on Monday aimed at cutting all state funding to the Golden Dawn party, which is slated to receive more than 873,000 euro (£731,000) in 2013.

AP

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