Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, the leader of Greece’s controversial far-right political party, Golden Dawn, has been arrested, accused of creating a criminal organization. Also arrested was the party’s spokesperson, Ilias Kassidiaris, two of its lawmakers and 10 members of the party. They will be formally charged in court over the weekend. Members of Golden Dawn, who has been accused of neo-Nazi leanings, continue to insist they are a political party and not a criminal organization.
The recent murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fissas prompted the Greek police to take action against Golden Dawn. Fissas, known by his stage name Killah P, was stabbed twice and left to bleed to death by a supporter of the party, who claimed to be a member of Golden Dawn. But, it is feared the arrests could mean more killing and more support with the rising media attention. Ilias Panagiotaros, one of the Golden Dawn lawmakers to be arrested said of the arrest, “The people will lift Golden Dawn higher.”
Up until this time, the government has avoided a ban on the party, trying to avoid the attention it would give Golden Dawn that could heighten its support. Instead, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has ordered investigations to undermine the party and lead to the discontinuance of their state funding.
As soon as Mihaloliakos was arrested, the party’s website began calling for solidarity, while hundreds of party supporters protested outside police headquarters, chanting and waving Greek flags. Golden Dawn came into Parliament, from obscurity, claiming it would stop illegal immigrants form coming into the country by implementing border control. But, some human rights’ activists think the party may have crossed the line, going from just a political party to a criminal organization, when they linked Golden Dawn to recent attacks on immigrants. It has also been alleged that a Greek police officer helped train members of Golden Dawn and Peristeri and Aegaleo police stations have been investigated after complaints were made that some officers ignored attacks made on immigrants.
Before Fissas’ stabbing, in voter support opinion polls, the party had 14 percent of voter support. Their voter support has dropped in 6.7 percent, in the light of the stabbing, according to a poll done this week.
Of the 300 lawmakers in the Greek parliament, 18 belong to Golden Dawn. It is ranked as Greece’s third most popular party. The party has been accused of neo-Nazi leanings, after others have observed the Nazi-style salutes they give one another and their emblem, which resembles the Nazi swastika. Although Mihaloliakos denies the existence of the Holocaust, the party claims it has no connections to neo-Nazism.
Two guns and a hunting rifle were confiscated from Mihaloliakos’ home. Police claim he does not have a permit for these guns.
The well-publicized Greek financial crisis may have contributed to Golden Dawn’s rise in popularity. To appease angry citizens and obtain international financial funding, the Golden Dawn lawmakers have embraced austere measures. These strong-arm tactics may set Golden Dawn apart as a political party, but for those in Greece who watch as the party is linked to suspicious violent incidents, they seem more like a criminal organization.
By: Lisa Nance