NEWS - Archive September 2013


Racist attacks in Greece: interactive map

25/9/2013- Claims that the far-right Golden Dawn party has been training a military wing have raised concerns about growing racism in Greece. Researchers working on a project called The City at a Time of Crisis have sought to track what they see as the rise of neo-Nazism in Greece using crowd-sourced public reports. The interactive map is constantly updated to show the frequency and severity of attacks. It does this by pulling together reports from individuals, witnesses and the media going back to May 2011. The map shows all reported attacks (in red), but you can select specific categories (eg physical, verbal, police) from the right-hand panel. Clicking on a circle will take you to the report which you can read in full to determine its reliability.
The Guardian


'Blood and Honour': The family behind Greece's Neo-Nazi party

A dictator's disciple and a woman who describes migrants as 'sub-human' are the power couple behind Greece's Golden Dawn, the neo-fascist party facing a police crackdown after the murder of an anti-fascist musician last week.

28/9/2013- Party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, 56, arrested on Saturday, is a disgraced former officer cadet and devotee of Greek dictator George Papadopoulos, with whom he spent time in prison in the late 1970s for an assault and bombing attack. His wife Eleni Zaroulia, who joined her husband in parliament in June 2012, turned heads when she appeared in the chamber wearing a ring in the shape of the Iron Cross, the military decoration of Nazi Germany's armed forces. The family hails from Greece's southern Peloponnese peninsula, a particularly right-wing area of the country, and even their daughter Urania, 25, has urged members to "give up everything" for the party's "holy" ideology. "Ask yourself, are you ready to die for what you believe... ask yourself how far you are prepared to go," she wrote in a web posting this month.

Golden Dawn offices around the country have been subjected to police raids after anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed to death by an alleged self-confessed neo-Nazi on September 18. Initially handpicked by ex-dictator Papadopoulos to lead the youth of far-right group EPEN after the junta fell, Nikos Michaloliakos founded Golden Dawn in the mid-1980s, making him one of the longest-serving party leaders in Greece. The party follows a strict military-style regimen. Its members conduct parades dressed in black shirts and camouflage trousers, and are required to stand to attention before higher-ranking members. Michaloliakos' first elected post was as an Athens municipal councillor in 2010, where he attended sessions with bodyguards and was filmed taunting a left-wing opponent with fascist salutes.

At the time of its inception and for years thereafter, Golden Dawn glorified Adolf Hitler and the warrior ethos of Nazi Germany in its party publications. One of the party's older texts, read in parliament by a leftist MP in May, called Hitler a "visionary of new Europe". "Faith in the words of the Fuehrer, and faith in victory, grows in our hearts. The fight goes on, the future is ours," the Golden Dawn text read. This rhetoric was later toned down as the party adjusted its message to better suit Greek voter concerns with austerity and illegal immigration. Even so, in a May 2012 interview Michaloliakos effectively denied the Holocaust, telling Greece's Mega channel: "There were no crematoria, it's a lie. Or gas chambers."

Formerly on the fringe of Greek politics, Golden Dawn went from 19,000 votes a few years ago to over 426,000 in June 2012 after pledging to "scour the country" clean of illegal immigrants. Michaloliakos later said the party's voters were "the equivalent of 30-40 army divisions." The party, whose slogan is "Blood and Honour", has further boosted its ratings over the past year by organising food handouts for impoverished Greeks, and until recently polled more than 10 percent of the vote, making it the third most popular party in the country.

Now denying any neo-Nazi affiliation, Golden Dawn has mercilessly attacked mainstream parties as "traitors" and "thieves", tapping into widespread anger towards the string of conservative and socialist governments that brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy in 2010. Greece, which has a population of 11 million, has around 800,000 legally-registered immigrants -- many of whom have come from Albania -- and an estimated 350,000 undocumented immigrants, including Afghans, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis. Many Greeks blame migrants for a rise in violent crime as the country slogs through its sixth year in recession. More than a million are unemployed, including almost 60 percent of young people.

Michaloliakos has called illegal immigration a "wound" for Greece while his wife Zaroulia described immigrants as "sub-humans" in a speech to parliament, saying they had "invaded" the country bringing "all sorts of diseases". To the dismay of anti-racist activists and Jewish groups, Zaroulia was appointed in October to the committee on equality and non-discrimination of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly. She was reconfirmed to another one-year term in January, despite a promise by Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras to remove her. As Golden Dawn's spokeswoman on social issues, Zaroulia has demanded a death sentence for child molestors and criminal charges for doctors who provide abortions.

Golden Dawn denies any involvement in violence, though several of its lawmakers have been involved in assaults and are due to face trial. Party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, a former commando, infamously hit female Communist MP Liana Kanelli across the face during a heated talk show debate in June 2012, and will stand trial for the incident. He was also arrested on Saturday as part of the crackdown. The organisation maintains it has been unfairly targeted ahead of European parliament and municipal elections next year. Ethnos daily last year said Michaloliakos and Zaroulia had owned a sex hotel in central Athens until the eve of national elections. Quizzed on the issue, Michaloliakos later admitted that his wife owned 15 percent of the hotel, but he insisted: "I don't know what kind of hotel it is. We have nothing to do with its operation."


Greek far-right party threatens to pull lawmakers from parliament

Greece's far-right Golden Party has threatened to pull out of parliament, a move that would trigger a wave of by-elections that could destabilise the country, its leader said late on Thursday.

27/9/2013- The threat came after a self-proclaimed Golden Dawn supporter killed an anti-fascist rapper in Athens last week, prompting a court investigation into whether the country's third most popular party is a criminal organisation. The seemingly politically motivated stabbing sparked outrage and violent protests in the crisis-struck country. Police have been searching Golden Dawn party offices and several of its members were arrested or received suspended jail sentences for illegally carrying or owning weapons. Golden Dawn has denied any links to the rapper's killing and its leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos warned it may pull its lawmakers from parliament if the crackdown did not stop. "We have not reached a final decision yet. All options are open," he said on television channel Vergina TV.

Golden Dawn has 18 out of parliament's 300 lawmakers. If they quit, they would have to be replaced through special elections in every electoral district they represent, which includes most of the country's biggest. If such by-elections were won by the opposition, as some polls indicate, the country's fragile two-party ruling coalition would become politically untenable, Mihaloliakos argued. "Golden Dawn holds a weapon in its hands to cause a political earthquake. Those in charge should bear that well in mind," he said. With political stability a key condition for the smooth going of Greece's EU/IMF bailout, senior officials have dismissed any notion that the government was under threat.

By-elections would not lead to a general vote that could destabilise the country, Interior Minister Yannis Mihelakis said on Thursday. "The whole affair has already damaged the country enough. A general election would just make things worse," he told Skai TV. "It's not a threat. It's a great opportunity," deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos told Reuters on Wednesday after then unconfirmed reports that Golden Dawn was considering pulling its lawmakers. Golden Dawn boasts a swastika-like symbol, its supporters have been seen giving Nazi salutes and Mihaloliakos has denied the Holocaust. The party denies the neo-Nazi label. It has surged in popularity over the past year and been accused by human rights groups of attacking immigrants and political opponents with impunity by police.

Greek prosecutors investigating Golden Dawn have already found early evidence that could help them establish that it is a criminal organisation, a senior court official told reporters on Wednesday. Branding the group a criminal organisation is expected to be the first step for the government to begin reining in the party because an outright ban is difficult to push through under current Greek law. The government has said it was instead planning to unhinge the party by cutting its funding and targeting individual members who may have masterminded attacks on immigrants and opponents as part of a criminal organisation.


Golden Dawn leader charged with heading a criminal gang (Greece)

Nikos Michaloliakos appears in court after he is arrested along with key members of his Greek neo-fascist party

28/9/2013- The leader of Greece's Golden Dawn party, widely viewed as Europe's most violent political force, appeared in court on Saturday night on charges of heading a criminal gang after police mounted an unprecedented crackdown on the neo-fascist party, arresting Nikos Michaloliakos and other key members of his organisation. After a police operation in which anti-terrorism officers stormed the homes of Golden Dawn politicians across Athens, Michaloliakos and five of his MPs were seized. Fifteen other senior party activists, including a female police officer, were taken into custody accused of fomenting violence as members of a criminal organisation. Reading from a nine-page charge sheet, a public prosecutor accused the far-rightists of murder, extortion and money laundering.

The crackdown was hailed as "a historic day for Greece and Europe" by the public order minister, Nikos Dendias, who oversaw the operation, known only to three security officials before it was launched a little after dawn. "Golden Dawn tried to test the endurance of democracy," he said in a televised address, insisting that the inquiry into the party's illegal activities would continue apace. "Today it got an answer from state justice." Earlier in the day, following emergency talks with the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, the justice minister, Charlambos Athanasiou, promised "just justice" for those who had been arrested. "Justice has moved with decisiveness and transparency," Athanasiou told reporters gathered outside the prime minister's city centre office. "I want to say for all those who have been arrested, if they are sent to trial there will be just justice."

By nightfall, authorities said 25 counter-terrorism units were still trying to track down the party's deputy leader, Christos Pappas, who is accused in a strict hierarchy of command of jointly running a gang that, masked as a political organisation, had spawned terror on the streets of Greece. At least 11 others were also being sought, police officials said, citing "incontrovertible evidence" from intercepted telephone calls. Michaloliakos was arrested in his Athens home at 7am. Greek media quoted the politician as telling police: "What you are doing is not right. The truth will shine," as he was taken into custody in handcuffs. Hundreds of Golden Dawn supporters gathered outside Athens's police headquarters spurred on by a text message reportedly sent by the party to "support our moral and just struggle against the corrupt system".

Michaloliakos and his chief lieutenant, the party's spokesman, Ilias Kasidiaris, were inside the building as the supporters massed. Only on Friday, Kasidiaris, who became infamous when he assaulted two female leftwing MPs on live TV last year, had openly joked that "we are here to hand ourselves in", as the party launched a lawsuit against Pasok, the junior leftwing party in Samaras's fragile coalition. Police officials said a number of weapons had been discovered in the crackdown. Three unlicensed guns allegedly found in Michaloliakos's home were to undergo ballistics tests, and tens of thousands of euros was also apparently found, the media reported.

Greece's third biggest party, Golden Dawn, has seen its popularity soar on the back of desperation. The organisation is accused of making violence its calling card, and human rights groups hold it responsible for hundreds of attacks on dark-skinned immigrants in the three years since the debt-stricken country plunged into crisis. Since being elected to parliament with 18 MPS and 7% of the vote for the first time in June last year, the party has been linked to a wave of violence directed mostly against migrants, gay people and leftists on Greece's increasingly fractious political scene. The fatal stabbing this month of Pavlos Fyssas, a hip-hop star popular among anti-fascists, prompted widespread outrage and galvanised the governing coalition into taking action. Amid revelations that Golden Dawn had set up hit squads with the help of commandos in the special forces and openly colluded with the police, the authorities launched a far-reaching inquiry into the group's activities.

Two senior police officers resigned and several officers were suspended after allegations of links with the party. More than a dozen Golden Dawn members, including the 45-year-old man who confessed to murdering Fyssas, were rounded up. Not since the collapse of military rule have MPs been arrested en masse. "This is without precedent in Greek political life," said a lecturer in constitutional law, Kostas Chrysogonos. "Authorities are acting within the law, but I also think it would have been constitutionally more correct if they had asked parliament to lift their [MPs'] political immunity first." Even if the politicians are imprisoned pending trial, they will still retain their standing as MPs, experts said. As he was hauled under armed guard from police headquarters to the court, Kasidiaris shouted: "Long live Greece. Nothing will bend us, nothing will frighten us." Previously he had told a TV show that "they can arrest us, they can put us in prison, but we will still be MPs. We are not going to go back even one step."

Samaras's shaky coalition has been applauded for its tough stance, with opinion polls showing a drop in support for Golden Dawn and a slight rise for his conservative New Democracy party, but there are fears the crackdown could ultimately damage the government. The opposition leader, Alexis Tsipras, of the radical left Syriza party, said last week the party should be confronted "within the law, not outside it". Before the crackdown Golden Dawn was polling at around 15%, prompting it to boast it had "more than a million" supporters in Greece. Michaloliakos warned last week that he might withdraw his 18 MPs from parliament, a move that threatened to unleash political instability in a country dependent on international rescue funds to survive. The politician had also said that "mudslinging and slander" against his party would "open the gates of hell".
The Guardian


50.000 march on Golden Dawn headquarters in Athens (Greece)

26/9/2013- As the antifascist left stages an impressive show of force and numbers, the government finally embarks upon a belated crackdown on the neo-Nazi party. A week after antifascist hip-hop singer Pavlos Fyssas was murdered in cold blood by a gang of Golden Dawn thugs, tens of thousands of antifascist protesters staged an impressive rally and marched on the Golden Dawn headquarters in Athens to confront the rising threat of fascism head on. Clashes briefly broke out after riot police prevented the march from reaching the party’s offices and began firing tear gas at protesters to disperse the crowd. Some molotov cocktails were thrown, some trash bins burnt and some bank windows thrown in, but overall the march remained mostly peaceful.

Today’s impressive show of force and numbers came amid a growing wave of popular outrage over the government’s continued insistence on austerity and its wilful reluctance to stem the rise of violent fascism this has produced. It also comes immediately on the heels of a 48-hour public sector strike against further budget cuts that will lead to the sacking of at least 12.500 civil servants in a country where unemployment already stands at 28% — higher even than the 25% peak experienced by the US during the Great Depression in 1933. The new wave of social mobilization triggered by the murder of Pavlos Fyssas appears to have finally galvanized the ruling coalition into a much-belated crackdown on the openly neo-Nazi party and its sympathizers within the state apparatus. The government has announced its intention to charge any politicians involved in the attacks under anti-terrorism legislation and has proposed cutting off state funding for their parties. It also ordered the anti-terrorism unit and secret service to investigate Golden Dawn’s infiltration of the police and army.

Eight senior police officers were already sacked to guarantee the “objectivity” of the investigation — some of them accused of failing to give arrest orders for Golden Dawn members following their violent attacks — and two more resigned, citing “personal reasons”. Meanwhile, fascist sympathizers within the armed special forces now stand accused of clandestinely training Golden Dawn militias in the mountains and countryside. In a recent interview, one former Golden Dawn member claimed that the party has at least 3.000 men on standby — fully trained and armed with weapons “for when the time comes.” This in turn raises fears over what would happen if the government were to move ahead in its crackdown. Even if its criminalization of Golden Dawn’s violent actions — perpetrated with the acquiescence and probably even under direct orders of party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos — may eventually lead to its institutional dissolution, the question is what the party’s supporters will do. Of the 500.000 people who voted for Golden Dawn in last year’s elections, most will probably vote for the ruling conservative party of prime minister Samaras or the other far-right party, Independent Greeks, but some hard-core supporters may refuse to go down without a fight.

There are already some troubling signs that a further escalation of social tension might lie ahead. In a public statement, the daughter of Golden Dawn’s party leader publicly asked its members “to what extent they are ready to sacrifice themselves for the movement, to give their life.” But despite the fascist belligerence coming from the party’s leaders and its thugs, today the Greek left — both institutional and extra-parliamentary — showed its resolve in the face of the fascist threat and further increased the pressure on both Golden Dawn and the political establishment to stem the rising tide of fascism. As official investigations by the Financial Crimes Unit show that Golden Dawn is actually being funded by a group of wealthy businessmen, ship-owners and priests, the party’s popular support is rapidly collapsing. One poll now indicates a 5.8% approval rating in the immediate wake of last week’s killing — down from its peak of 15% just a few weeks ago. Meanwhile, Golden Dawn has also been driven onto the defensive in its grassroots battle for control over the streets and neighborhoods. It was forced to postpone the launching of its new offices in Drama and Kavala while closing down its offices in Ierapetra and hiding its signboards from other offices throughout the country.

Today’s massive antifascist protest and the recent convergence of labor struggles in the public sector seem to mark the start a new wave of popular resistance to both neo-Nazism and the increasingly authoritarian neoliberal state under which it arose. But the fight against fascism is by no means over and unpredictable outcomes still lie ahead. With Athens in flames and the government increasingly under pressure, it is clear that some of the worst of Greece’s protracted crisis — which had already been confined to the dustbin by some — may still lie ahead.


Greece's democracy in danger, warns Demos, as Greek reservists call for coup

Greece 'backsliding in democracy' in face of joblessness, social unrest, corruption and disillusion with politicians, says thinktank

26/9/2013- No country has displayed more of a "backslide in democracy" than Greece, the British thinktank Demos has said in a study highlighting the crisis-plagued country's slide into economic, social and political disarray. Released on the same day that judicial authorities ordered an investigation into a blog posting by a group of reservists in the elite special forces calling for a coup d'etat, the study singled out Greece and Hungary for being "the most significant democratic backsliders" in the EU. "Researchers found Greece overwhelmed by high unemployment, social unrest, endemic corruption and a severe disillusionment with the political establishment," it said. The report, commissioned by the European parliament, noted that Greece was the most corrupt state in the 28-nation bloc and voiced fears over the rise of far-right extremism in the country.

The report was released as the fragile two-party coalition of the prime minister, Antonis Samaras, admitted it was worried by a call for a military coup posted overnight on Wednesday on the website of the Special Forces Reserve Union. "It must worry us," said a government spokesman, Simos Kedikoglou. "The overwhelming majority in the armed forces are devoted to our democracy," he said. "The few who are not will face the consequences." With tension running high after a crackdown on the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, a supreme court public prosecutor demanded an immediate inquiry into who may have written the post, which called for an interim government under "the guarantee of the armed forces".

The special forces reservist unit whose members appeared in uniform to protest against a visit to Athens by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel said Greece should renege on the conditions attached to an international bailout and set up special courts to prosecute those responsible for its worst financial crisis in modern times. Assets belonging to German companies, individuals or the state should be seized to pay off war reparations amassed during the Nazi occupation. Underscoring the social upheaval that has followed economic meltdown, the blog post argued that the government had violated the constitution by failing to provide adequate health, education, justice and security. Insiders said the mysterious post once again highlighted the infiltration of the armed forces by the extreme right. This week revelations emerged of Golden Dawn hit squads being trained by special forces commandos.

Fears are growing that instead of reining in the extremist organisation, the crackdown on the group may ultimately create a backlash. The party, whose leaders publicly admire Adolf Hitler and have adopted an emblem resembling the swastika, have held their ground in opinion polls despite a wave of public outrage. Golden Dawn, which won nearly 7% of the vote in elections last year and has 18 MPs in Athens' 300-member parliament, has capitalised more than any other political force on Greece's economic crisis. "Much will depend on how well it will withstand the pressure and they are tough guys who seem to be withstanding it well," said Giorgos Kyrtsos, a political commentator.
The Guardian


Greece: Far right party members convicted

25/9/2013- A court in northern Greece convicted four men identified as members of the far-right Golden Dawn party late Tuesday after being arrested carrying knives, pepper spray, and collapsible metal batons, as a probe into the political party's allegedly illegal activities widened. Court in Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city, convicted the men aged 20 to 39 on public disturbance offenses and illegal weapons possession changes, handing them suspended sentences of between six and 10 months. The government has vowed to crack down on the group it has described as a neo-Nazi organization, after the murder last week of Pavlos Fyssas, a 34-year-old rap singer stabbed outside a cafe by a man who later identified himself as being involved in the group. The party vehemently denies any involvement.

Golden Dawn, which won nearly 7 percent of the vote in national elections last year, has denied involvement in the killing as well as frequent allegations of being behind brutal street attacks, mostly against dark-skinned immigrants. Investigations have extended to the police, which have been accused in the past of turning a blind eye to Golden Dawn violence and of mistreating immigrants. Internal affairs officers raided one police station Tuesday, investigating allegations that some policemen were involved in extorting money from immigrants selling contraband cigarettes. Authorities said a 45-year-old suspended police officer was arrested late Tuesday after police searched the Golden Dawn offices in the western town of Agrinio, where there found wooden bats and shotgun cartridges. The officer was the former police bodyguard of a Golden Dawn lawmaker.

In Athens, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias said he had sent additional evidence of alleged attacks allegedly carried out by members or supporters of the extreme right-wing party to the country's Supreme Court prosecutor. The probe was widened a day after the government replaced five senior police officers "to ensure the absolute objectivity" of the investigation into Golden Dawn. Dendias, speaking after his meeting with President Karolos Papoulias, stressed that the officers are not suspected of any involvement themselves. Greece's main police union criticized the move, saying the replacements were blackening the name of the police in general, and the replaced officers in particular. "The damage caused by this in the conscience of citizens is great and is not undone by the police leadership's assurances that the transfers have nothing to do with the tragic recent events," the union said.

Dendias insisted the police should not be blamed for recent events. The force, he said, "is fulfilling its duty, which is to protect life, property and the freedom of Greek citizens, and ... the overwhelming majority of the women and men of the Greek Police are completely dedicated to their duty."
The Associated Press


Greek cops resign after neo-Nazi murder of anti-fascist musician

Two Greek police generals resigned on Monday, the police department said, as authorities moved to take a tougher line against the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party following last week's murder of an anti-fascist musician by one of its alleged supporters.

23/9/2013- The police said the regional supervisors for southern and central Greece had stepped down as a probe was underway into possible links between the police department and the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party. The police also said a number of senior officers on the island of Evia were suspended after failing to investigate a Golden Dawn office near a local police station where weapons were allegedly kept. The fatal stabbing of 34-year-old hip hop artist Pavlos Fyssas on September 18 has prompted authorities to take a harder stance against Golden Dawn, which has been linked with prior beatings of migrants that it officially denies. Several of its lawmakers have also been involved in violent incidents and have yet to face justice. Capitalising on a rise in social tension in the debt-stricken country, Golden Dawn was first elected to parliament last year with nearly seven percent of the vote and 18 seats out of an overall 300. The government is now trying to find a way to deal with the neo-Nazi party, which so far has benefitted from a law granting elected MPs immunity from prosecution.


5 senior police officials removed from posts in Greece in far-right probe

23/9/2013- Five senior police officers in Greece were replaced Monday after the government ordered urgent inquiries into alleged links between the far-right Golden Dawn party and the country's police and military. The Public Order Ministry said the heads of the police's special forces, internal security, organized crime, firearms and explosives, and a rapid-response motorcycle division had been moved to other posts pending an investigation into weekend reports in the Greek media that police provided the party with assistance in alleged criminal activity. Golden Dawn won nearly 7 per cent of the vote in general elections last year, but is currently the subject of a criminal investigation following the murder last week of an anti-fascist rapper. The party angrily denies any involvement in the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas. A 45-year-old man, who authorities say has identified himself as a Golden Dawn volunteer, has been arrested for the murder and remains in police custody.

The government is seeking the prosecution of members of the far-right party under the country's anti-terrorism law and is preparing a legislative amendment that would see Golden Dawn's state campaign funding suspended if its lawmakers are accused of serious offences. It describes the party as neo-Nazi and says it is behind a growing number of brutal street attacks against mostly Asian immigrants by far-right gangs. Monday's action was taken to "to ensure the absolute objectivity" of the police inquiry, the government said. Two less senior officers were also replaced, while a third was suspended, while regional police commanders of southern and central Greece resigned, citing personal reasons. Separately, the Defence Ministry on Sunday ordered its own inquiry into the news reports that Golden Dawn members were receiving informal training from serving and reservist special forces officers in the Greek military.

Nikos Michaloliakos, the Golden Dawn leader, described the claims of paramilitary training and the government allegations linking his party to Fyssas' murder as "monstrous lies." "We are under an all-out and dirty attack from a system that is rotten," he said on a live webcast streamed on the party's Internet site. "I am supposed to prove that I am not a criminal, not the mafia. But my question is: Is there any bigger criminal gang than those in power, who led the country to bankruptcy and handed over our national sovereignty?" Golden Dawn, whose leaders in the past have expressed admiration for Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and use openly racist rhetoric against non-European immigrants, has seen a surge in support over the past two years as the country struggled through harsh economic crisis. Its popularity in opinion polls has risen further since the last election in June 2012 — alarming mainstream political parties faced with municipal and European Parliament elections next year. A survey in the conservative Eleftheros Typos newspaper, published Monday, found a sharp dip in support for Golden Dawn over the past week, from 8.3 to 5.8 per cent, with other parties broadly unchanged.
The Associated Press


Greece investigates police links to far-right party after killing

* Investigation to see if Golden Dawn has infiltrated police * Right-wing party denied involvement in rapper's death * Government also shakes up police leadership

23/9/2013- Greece suspended several senior police officers on Monday and launched an investigation into possible police links with a far-right party, after the killing of an anti-racism rapper raised concerns about the force. Pavlos Fissas's stabbing by a supporter of the Golden Dawn party last week revived accusations that police were turning a blind eye to its activities or had even been infiltrated by it. A man who said he had a "loose" connection with Golden Dawn has been charged with Fissas's murder but the party, Greece's third most popular, has denied involvement. The investigation comes as Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government tries to rein in a party that has surged in popularity during Greece's economic crisis. With its vehemently anti-immigrant rhetoric, Golden Dawn is often blamed for attacks against immigrants, something it denies.

The public order ministry ordered the investigation after media reports alleged police were "actively involved" with the party's activities and may have participated in illegal acts. Five senior national police officials as well as the police chiefs in the Athens neighbourhoods of Nikaia and of Keratsini, where the killing occurred, have been replaced, the police said in a statement. "The minister is determined to dispel any shadow of doubt that hangs over the force," the statement said. Four police officials in Evia, in central Greece, were suspended for failing to investigate why people had been found carrying weapons, including baseball bats, near Golden Dawn offices in the area, the public order ministry said. Two other high-ranking police officials also resigned, citing personal reasons, it added. 

Every City, Every Village 
Calls to ban Golden Dawn have increased in recent days, and the leftist opposition Syriza party has accused the government and the police of failing to investigate allegations that the party had cells operating within the force. Calls to ban Golden Dawn have increased in recent days, and the leftist opposition Syriza party has accused the government and the police of failing to investigate allegations that the party had cells operating within the force. "They thought (Golden Dawn) was a little snake and they patted it," Syriza leader Alexis Tsipras said. "Now it's about to choke us." Golden Dawn leader Nikos Mihaloliakos said moves to ban the party would not succeed. "Golden Dawn is everywhere. It has spread to every city, to every village," Mihaloliakos said in a video live-streamed on the party's website. "It's in every neighbourhood and you will not be able to contain it. Deal with it!" Mihaloliakos said the party was victim of a "dirty attack by a corrupt system" and vowed to prove its innocence. "We are asked to prove that ... I am not Al Capone, that we are not the mafia," he said. "And I would like to ask - it is a rhetorical question of course - is there a bigger criminal gang than that which bankrupt the country?"

Police have often refused to investigate racist attacks by Golden Dawn members on immigrants, newspaper Eleftherotypia reported on Monday, citing a leader of the Pakistani community in Athens. The party, with an emblem resembling a swastika, denies accusations of violence. Its members have been seen giving Nazi-style salutes but the party rejects the neo-Nazi label. Mihaloliakos has publicly denied the Holocaust. Golden Dawn rose from being a fringe party to win 18 parliamentary seats in a June 2012 election. But support fell by 2.5 percentage points to 5.8 percent after the stabbing and most Greeks believe it threatens democracy, a poll showed on Monday. When asked to described the party, 47 percent of those polled called it a "fascist organisation", 31 percent called it a "criminal organisation under the guise of a political party", and 16.9 percent saw it as a "populist nationalist movement".


RSS feed
Suggestions and comments please to