Greek neo-Nazi leader in pre-trial detention

2013-10-03 13:00
The leader of ultra-right wing Golden Dawn party Nikos Michaloliakos is escorted by masked police officers to the prosecutor from the police headquarters in Athens. (Angelos Tzortzinis, AFP)

The leader of ultra-right wing Golden Dawn party Nikos Michaloliakos is escorted by masked police officers to the prosecutor from the police headquarters in Athens. (Angelos Tzortzinis, AFP)

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Athens - The leader of Greece's Golden Dawn neo-Nazi party Nikos Michaloliakos was placed in pre-trial detention early on Thursday after delivering a lengthy testimony in court, the state-run Athens News Agency said.

Michaloliakos is "accused of running a criminal organisation", according to the agency, as Greek authorities move to dismantle the group after the shock murder of an anti-fascist musician on 18 September.

Local media reported that magistrates further decided that a local Golden Dawn leader, allegedly involved in the murder of hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas, should also be held in detention.

Some 100 of the group's supporters had gathered outside the court, carrying Greek flags and chanting "Blood, honour, Golden Dawn," when Michaloliakos arrived to offer his testimony shortly before 1630 GMT on Wednesday.

As the 56-year-old mathematician and former disciple of Greek dictator George Papadopoulos entered the building, they applauded.

On Wednesday, four Golden Dawn lawmakers were charged with belonging to a criminal organisation, in the first ever indictment against neo-Nazi PMs in Greece.

Three were conditionally released and only one was placed in pre-trial detention, as police reportedly found he had spoken to members of a gang that ambushed Fyssas on the night of his murder.

The conditional release was seen as surprising given the gravity of the charges, but justice officials later stressed that release did not mean acquittal.

"My recommendation to everyone is not to rush. We do not have any conclusive judicial ruling [yet]," warned Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos.

The three freed lawmakers left the court in a combative mood, insulting and threatening reporters.

Golden Dawn was the country's third most popular party until Fyssas' murder sparked nationwide protests and a government crackdown on the group long accused of attacking immigrants, charges that it denies.

Overall, some two dozen people including six of the organisation's lawmakers, lower-ranking party members and three police officers, face charges ranging from attempted homicide and murder to illegal arms possession and belonging to a criminal organisation.

Golden Dawn denies all the accusations and says it is the victim of political persecution designed to stem its rise ahead of local elections next year.

Once a fringe party, Golden Dawn capitalised on growing public discontent in a country hard hit by the economic crisis and was first elected to parliament last year with nearly 7% of the vote.

Read more on:    nikos michaloliakos  |  greece  |  nazis  |  nazi crimes

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