Sunday, December 8, 2013
By DEMETRIS NELLAS Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Golden Dawn party leader Nikos Michaloliakos, center, is escorted by antiterror police to court in Athens, Greece, today. Police arrested Michaloliakos and other top members of Golden Dawn in an escalation of a government crackdown, following a fatal stabbing allegedly committed by a supporter. It is the first time since 1974 that sitting members of Parliament have been arrested.
"Golden Dawn has indeed been losing ground at the polls since the man's murder and I expect them to continue to lose ground. This is the beginning of the end for Golden Dawn," Theodore Couloumbis, a political scientist and professor emeritus of International Relations at Athens University, told The Associated Press.
"There is no provision in the Constitution, and certainly no recent precedent, for the banning of a political party on the grounds of its ideology. That's why the government documented a series of criminal acts to hold them responsible for," Couloumbis added.
A formerly marginal organization with neo-Nazi roots, Golden Dawn entered Parliament for the first time in May 2012, capitalizing on Greece's deep financial crisis, rising crime and anti-immigrant sentiment.
"I think the young man's murder served as a catalyst. Every other political party said 'enough' ... to the violent attacks on Greeks and immigrants alike," Couloumbis said.
Couloumbis also approved the government's intention to avoid even partial elections at this time.
"Even a by-election would be a disaster. It would polarize the country at a time when it begins exiting its worst economic crisis ever," he said.
The party's members and supporters have frequently been suspected of carrying out violent attacks, mainly against immigrants. Despite its reputation for violence, the party had enjoyed growing popularity.
The prosecutor's report says the people under arrest, and those still at large, were responsible for murders, violent attacks, explosions and extortion. The document also said there were indications of laundering of the alleged extortion proceeds.
Police had searched Golden Dawn leader Michaloliakos' home and had retrieved two pistols, an unregistered shotgun, large amounts of ammunition and over €43,000 ($58,000) in cash, police spokesman Pagonis said. Police also seized computers from Michaloliakos' home.
Pagonis added a search in an arrested police officer's home turned up weapons, including knives, knuckledusters and a stun gun. A Golden Dawn membership card not belonging to the policewoman was also found.
The persons charged are expected to be granted a delay of two or three days to prepare their depositions. Meanwhile, they will be held at Athens police headquarters. It is highly likely that they will remain jailed after those depositions pending trial.
Associated Press writer Elena Becatoros contributed to this report.