Five Greek politicians of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, including founder Nikos Michaloliakos, will face charges of belonging to a criminal organisation, a court source has said.
The five, who were arrested on Saturday along with 13 other Golden Dawn members and two police officers in a massive police sweep, will remain in custody until their appearance before a magistrate, the source said.
The government crackdown came after a fatal stabbing blamed on a Golden Dawn supporter.
It was the first time since 1974 that sitting members of Parliament have been arrested.
Police spokesman Christos Pagonis said that a total of arrest warrants were issued, all for the same charge.
Pagonis said that the counterterrorism unit was still searching for the 12 suspects at large, including the party’s missing deputy, Christos Pappas – described in a prosecutor’s report as the Golden Dawn’s number 2.
Greek society will not tolerate any storm troopers.
Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou hinted that the arrests were the culmination of a long strategy to deal with Golden Dawn as a criminal, not a political force.
“It is an unprecedentedly dynamic response to a neo-Nazi organization,” Kedikoglou said.
“The prime minister and the government were determined to deal with Golden Dawn solely through the justice system … We have succeeded in stripping them of their political cover and deal with them as what they really are, a criminal organisation.”
Under existing anti-terrorism legislation, membership in a criminal
organisation is a flagrant crime for which the Golden Dawn deputies can be
prosecuted without the parliament needing to lift their immunity.
Citizen protection minister Nikos Dendias compared Golden Dawn members to German SS squads.
“The state has proven it is not helpless in the face of organised violence … Greek society will not tolerate any storm troopers,” Dendias said.
Despite the arrests, the party’s lawmakers retain their parliamentary seats unless they are convicted of a crime. Golden Dawn holds 18 of Parliament’s 300 seats, after winning nearly 7 percent of the vote in general elections last year.