Greece’s Golden Dawn party chief jailed

Head of party described as a ‘Nazi creation’ jailed pending trial on charges of running a criminal investigation.

Leader of the extreme far-right Golden Dawn party Nikos Michaloliakos is escorted by anti-terror police in Athens. Eosphotos/Angeliki Panagiotou
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ATHENS // The head of Greece’s extremist right-wing Golden Dawn party was jailed early today, pending trial on charges of running a criminal organisation in an investigation into his political party triggered by the killing of a left-wing rapper.

Nikos Michaloliakos, who is a sitting member of Parliament, was remanded in custody in the early hours of Thursday morning, after overnight testimony that lasted for more than six hours.

Armed police led him away from the courthouse in handcuffs. His wife and daughter, who are also party members, as well as other Golden Dawn members of Parliament, stood outside the building and shouted words of encouragement to him as he was led away.

“The ridiculous little men, they decided to jail the leader,” said party politician Michalis Arvanitis.

On Wednesday, the court ordered the release of three party politicians and the jailing of a fourth in the same case. All have denied the charges against them.

Michaloliakos and five of his party politicians were among 20 people arrested over the weekend in a crackdown against the Nazi-inspired party following the September 17 fatal stabbing of rap singer Pavlos Fyssas. A man arrested at the scene of the attack identified himself as being involved in Golden Dawn.

The court also ordered Giorgos Patelis, the head of Golden Dawn’s local office in the area west of Athens where Fyssas was stabbed, to be remanded in custody.

A sixth party lawmaker, Christos Pappas, who the prosecution has described as Michaloliakos’ second in command, is to appear in court for his preliminary hearing later Thursday morning.

The party has vehemently denied any role in the killing.

It is the first time since democracy was restored in Greece in 1974 after a military dictatorship that sitting members of parliament have been arrested and jailed.

Golden Dawn, which the government has described as a “Nazi creation,” rose from the margins of Greece’s political scene to become the third most popular party in Greece amid the country’s severe financial crisis. It won nearly 7 per cent of the vote and 18 of Parliament’s 300 seats in 2012 general elections.

It has long been blamed for a series of violent attacks, mostly against immigrants. The party denies it is behind any violence.

* Associated Press