Greece: Golden Dawn Trio Arrested In Crackdown

Anthee Carassava, in Athens
Greece: Golden Dawn Trio Arrested In Crackdown

Three more members of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party have been detained in Greece, marking a dramatic escalation in a government crackdown on the far-right group.

The trio are awaiting trial on charges linked to a number of criminal activities, including violent beatings of immigrants and the killing of an anti-racist rapper.

In total, six Golden Dawn members have been detained since 34-year-old Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed to death by a party sympathiser last September.

The latest officials to be held - Stathis Boukouras, Yorgos Germenis and Panagiotis Iliopoulos - were whisked off to maximum security prisons.

Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and two other senior members are already in custody, accused of similar charges of operating a criminal organisation under the guise of a political party.

All have denied any criminal wrongdoing, including involvement in the death of Mr Fyssas, whose killing sent shock waves across the country and caused Golden Dawn's popularity to nose dive.

As the detention of Boukouras became known, scores of party supporters gathered outside the magistrate's office, scorning the authorities for their decision, lashing out at journalists, hurling water bottles and shouting slogans against the establishment.

"We will not buckle," Iliopoulos said. "Golden Dawn will be victorious. Greece will be victorious."

Alexis Kouyias, an attorney representing Boukouras, suggested the magistrate was acting at the orders of the government and warned the country was "heading down the path of a democratic breakdown".

Once a fringe, negligible political force, Golden Dawn, viewed by many as one of the more dangerous groups of reactionaries in Europe, emerged from obscurity to claim 7% of the vote and 18 seats in parliament in national elections two years ago.

Feeding on the financial crisis gripping Greece, as well as popular resentment for traditional mainstream parties and the country's political elite, the group saw its support double at the height of brutal austerity measures before one of its members admitted stabbing Mr Fyssas.

Since then, an unprecedented government crackdown has seen dozens of party offices raided, with leading members detained and millions of euros in state funding suspended following urgent legislation which was enforced last month.

Government officials declined to say how far the crackdown on Golden Dawn was destined to go.

However, with local and European parliamentary elections due to take place later this year, senior government officials have suggested the party could be banned from running, according to political experts and local media.

Despite the ongoing crackdown and its dramatic drop in popularity, Golden Dawn continues to enjoy the diehard support of 7-9% of Greek voters, ranking as the third biggest political force in the country.

Last week, Ilias Kassidiaris, the party's spokesman and candidate for the Athens mayoral race, said Golden Dawn was preparing to challenge the government's crackdown in the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the hearings which led to the detention of its leader and other senior officials were both illegal and unconstitutional.

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