Surrounded by heavily-armed anti-terrorist police, four Members of Parliament from Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party rounded up with a group of other leaders and members charged with operating a criminal gang appeared in an Athens court on Oct. 1 for a preliminary hearing.
Despite appeals for their masses to turn out, only a few dozen Golden Dawn supporters wanly waved as their leaders were shepherded into the court. Another three lower-ranking party members appeared before an examining magistrate earlier in the day and two were released.
The party’s top leadership, including its head, are among 22 people arrested in a crackdown after the fatal stabbing on Sept. 17 of a Greek anti-fascist rap singer. Arrest warrants have been issued for another 10 people.
The four party members brought to court were party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris, Ilias Panagiotaros, Yiannis Lagos and Nikos Mihos. The party leader, Nikos Michaloliakos, is to appear in court for his deposition on Oct. 2, while second-in-command Christos Pappas heads there the day after.
Golden Dawn rose from obscurity to become Greece’s third most popular party in 2012 when it won 18 seats in Parliament on the back of anti-immigrant stance and its opposition to a bailout plan from international lenders that came with harsh austerity measures.
Party members and even lawmakers have frequently been accused in the past of being behind numerous violent attacks, mostly against dark-skinned migrants. NGO’s said they’ve recorded hundreds of such assaults.
Golden Dawn angrily denied any involvement in the violence. It also rejects the neo-Nazi label, although it plays the Nazi anthem at party events and makes heavy use of Nazi slogans — translated into Greek. Police searches of senior party officials’ homes turned up illegal firearms, posters of Adolf Hitler, and assorted Nazi memorabilia.
Photos released by police show party Parliamentary spokesman Christos Pappas had turned his country home into a Nazi and fascist shrine, with items including a Waffen SS poster and helmet, an Adolf Hitler street-sign, a toy Nazi flag-bearer, swastikas galore and wine bottles labeled with photos of Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.