The leader of Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, has been formally charged with belonging to a criminal organisation. Michaloliakos was arrested yesterday together with four more Golden Dawn MPs and 15 party members. Police have said they found weapons, ammunition and thousands of euros cash at Michaeloliakos’s home.
The Golden Dawn arrests followed public demonstrations over the stabbing of Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-racist rapper, on 18 September. The man held for the stabbing said he was a member of Golden Dawn, something the party has denied. Yesterday, a public prosecutor accused the far-rightists of murder, extortion and money laundering.
These arrests mark an unprecedented crackdown on the far-right group that has long been accused of violence against immigrants and leftist political opponents, including an attack on Communist Party members earlier this month that hospitalised nine people. The arrests were welcomed as "a historic day for Greece and Europe" by the public order minister, Nikos Dendias.
The ultimate test, however, will be how the courts now respond. This isn’t the first time leading Golden Dawn members have been charged over violence, but as New Statesman’s Yiannis Baboulias reports, Greek’s judicial system has consistently failed to prosecute party members and has neglected to protect witnesses from intimidation.
Golden Dawn currently has 18 MPs in Greece’s parliament, and their MPs won’t lose their seats or political rights until a final court ruling is heard on their cases. This Friday, however, Golden Dawn threatened to pull its 18 MPs out of parliament, which would spark by-elections.