30 September 2013
Nikos Michaloliakos, the leader of Greece's Golden Dawn appeared in court on Saturday night on charges of heading a criminal gang after police mounted an unprecedented crackdown on the neo-Nazi party, arresting him and other key members of his organization. After a police operation in which anti-terrorism officers stormed the homes of Golden Dawn politicians across Athens, Michaloliakos and five of his lawmakers of his party were seized. Fourteen other senior Golden Dawn activists were taken into custody accused of fomenting violence as members of a criminal organization.
Christos Pappas, described as number two official of the party, turned himself in at police headquarters in Athens on Sunday after being on the run for 24 hours. Several Greek TV channels broadcast his arrival live, showing him leaving a taxi, ducking under the cordon surrounding the building, and turning to the cameras. Pappas condemned the clampdown: "I present myself voluntarily. I have nothing to hide, nothing to fear. The occupation government of the bailout deals has begun unprecedented political persecutions, using so-called independent justice. Nationalism will prevail. Golden Dawn will survive," he said.
Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras held emergency talks with his public order and justice ministers after the raids.
Authorities said 25 counter-terrorism units were trying to track down two other politicians almost nine hours after Michaloliakos was arrested in his Athens home at 7a.m. on Saturday. 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, many wearing the party's black T-shirts, 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".
Last week, Golden Dawn leader Michaloliakos said that what he described as "mudslinging and slander" against his party would "open the gates of hell".
Positive reaction by Jewish community
The Greek Jewish community praised the police action against the Golden Dawn leadership. “As Jews, we are very happy”, BenjaminAlbalas, head of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS), told the 'Jerusalem Post'. “This group, I don't call them a party, is a neo-Nazi group and I think that the government will go until the end.
”In a separate statement, KIS expressed Greek Jewry’s satisfaction over what it called "the effective intervention of the Greek State for the protection of democracy in our county." It added: "The recent arrests of the supporters of Nazism represent a strong blow against racism, intolerance and anti-Semitism. Greece has sent the world another bright example of defending democracy, an example that should be followed by other European countries."
The World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the European Jewish Congress (EJC) also welcomed the arrests. EJC President Moshe Kantor called it "a long overdue move which will hopefully send a very strong message to neo-Nazis in Greece and across Europe." Kantor added: "We congra-tulate Prime Minister Antonis Samaras on the crackdown … and hope that the Greek leadership will make this a central part of the European Union presidency, which they will assume in January 2014."
Last week, WJC President Ronald Lauder had urged Greece to clamp down on Golden Dawn. "There can be no legitimate place in the Greek parliament for parties whose public statements and actions are racist or anti-Semitic and who operate in many ways like the Nazis did seventy years ago. If legislation is insufficient to deal with such organizations and individuals, it ought to be strengthened, because the people of Greece deserve to be protected from the forces that seek to destroy liberal democracy and reject even basic civil rights,” he declared.