About 1,000 supporters of Greece’s Golden Dawn party have staged a protest outside parliament against the pre-trial detention of their leader, Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, on charges of forming a criminal organisation.
Clad in black clothes, the protesters marched on Saturday carrying torches and Greek flags while shouting slogans such as “hands off Golden Dawn, don’t jail nationalists” to the sound of Greek folk and marching songs.
Riot police kept watch over the protesters, making sure they did not come into contact with counter-rallies by rival leftist groups nearby.
The demonstration was the ultra-right party’s most high-profile public action since a government crackdown against it in September, following the killing of an anti-fascist rapper by one of its supporters.
But the poor turnout of just a few hundred sympathisers showed Golden Dawn is still struggling to recover from the action of the authorities.
Thirteen of Golden Dawn’s 18 legislators are either in pre-trial detention, face charges, or have had their parliamentary immunity lifted, as prosecutors build a case that its leadership was involved in paramilitary-style attacks against political opponents and immigrants.
The party has rejected accusations of violence, and all Golden Dawn legislators who have been charged or are under investigation deny the allegations against them, saying they are being persecuted for their nationalist beliefs.
Golden Dawn came out of nowhere in elections last year to win parliamentary seats, capitalising on a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment amid record unemployment in the austerity-hit country.
The party lost about a third of its support immediately after the rapper’s death, according to opinion polls.
But it recovered some of those losses in October, after the revenge killing of two of its supporters by a previously unknown, anti-establishment hardliner group.
A poll published on Saturday in newspaper Kosmos tou Ependyti showed Golden Dawn’s support steady at 8.8 percent from 9.0 percent in October.