Greek police have arrested Nikos Michaloliakos, the leader of the far-right Golden Dawn Party, on charges of forming a criminal organization.
Another 13 party MPs and members were also arrested on Saturday, including party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, Ilias Panagiotaros and Ioannis Lagos. The general secretary of Golden Dawn’s Nikea chapter Nikos Patelis has also been arrested, reports said.
Charges reportedly include assault, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and blackmail.
The police counter-terrorism squad is reportedly looking for more MPs including Christos Pappas and Nikos Michos.
Developments have come in the wake of the murder of anti-racist musician, Pavlos Fyssas, by an alleged Golden Dawn member on September 18.
“The arrest of Michaloliakos is unacceptable. The people know what is happening and they will support Golden Dawn,” Panagiotaros said outside the police headquarters.
“Democracy is protected by institutions… The justice system has the means to defend these [institutions],” government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told Skai on Saturday.
Dimitris Papadimoulis, parliamentary spokesman for leftist SYRIZA opposition, said that the country’s legal arsenal is enough to crack down on any criminal acts committed by members of Golden Dawn.
“It is crucial to substantiate these charges,” he told Skai.
Golden Dawn has seen its popularity spike as Greece has dealt with its severe financial crisis and adopted severe austerity measures in order to receive international bailouts.
The party polled 7 percent in the 2012 elections and currently holds 18 seats in Greece’s 300-seat parliament.
Fyssas’s death has prompted the government to take a closer look at Golden Dawn’s activities. Party offices have been raided and party supporters thought to have taken part in attacks have been investigated.
Reported from Kathimerini’s English website: http://www.ekathimerini.com/4dcgi/_w_articles_wsite1_1_28/09/2013_520663