Greek police arrest leader, lawmakers of far-right Golden Dawn

By Renee Maltezou and Harry Papachristou

ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police arrested the leader and more than a dozen senior members and lawmakers from the far-right Golden Dawn party on Saturday after the killing of an anti-fascist rapper by a party supporter triggered outrage and protests across the country.

The party's leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris, two other lawmakers and 10 members were arrested on charges of founding a criminal organisation. They are due to appear in court this weekend to be charged formally.

Police confiscated two guns and a hunting rifle from the home of Mihaloliakos, saying he did not have a licence for them.

Golden Dawn, ranked Greece's third most popular party, is under investigation for the murder of Pavlos Fissas, who bled to death after being stabbed twice by a party sympathiser.

"Shame on them, the people will lift Golden Dawn higher," Ilias Panagiotaros, a Golden Dawn lawmaker told reporters before his arrest.

Several hundred party supporters gathered outside police headquarters chanting slogans and waving Greek flags. The party on its website called for protests in solidarity with its leader.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's government has so far resisted calls to ban the party, fearing it could make it even more popular at a time of growing anger at repeated rounds of austerity measures and instead, it has tried to undermine the party by ordering probes that could deprive it of state funding.

Samaras ruled out snap elections after the arrests.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras said Greece did not face the risk of political instability and Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou said all Golden Dawn members who had been arrested would receive a fair trial.

TACTIC TO IMPRESS

The move to arrest the party members surprised some Greeks wary of political theatre in a country where little has been done to rein in a party widely viewed as neo-Nazi.

"It's good that they arrested them, but I'm afraid that we will start killing each other now," said Dimitra Vassilopoulou, a 58-year old housewife.

"Does the government actually mean it or is it just a tactic to impress us? Why didn't they do anything when the immigrants were killed? How come they just discovered that Golden Dawn is a criminal organisation?"

The party has denied any links to the killing and Mihaloliakos has warned the party could pull its lawmakers from parliament if the crackdown does not stop.

If potential by-elections were won by the opposition, as some polls indicate, Greece's fragile two-party coalition would become politically untenable, Mihaloliakos has argued.

The party has 18 of parliament's 300 lawmakers and scored 14 percent of voter support in opinion polls before the stabbing. A poll this week showed this had fallen as low as 6.7 percent.

Greek lawmakers do not lose their political rights or seats unless there is a final court ruling against them but the government has proposed a law that could block state funding for Golden Dawn if police find links to Fissas's murder.

Golden Dawn, whose emblem resembles a swastika, rose from obscurity to enter parliament last year after promising to mine Greece's borders to prevent illegal immigrants from entering. Its members have been seen giving Nazi-style salutes but the party rejects the neo-Nazi label.

Human rights' groups have accused the party of being linked to attacks on immigrants but this is the first time it is being is investigated for evidence linking it to an attack.

(Additional reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Writing by Deepa Babington; editing by David Evans)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

On-field action set to divert from off-field drama

On-field action set to divert from off-field drama

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Michael Klinger has revealed he felt compelled to leave South Australia after being told he would be only a fringe part of the Redbacks' plans for next season, and disputed the suggestion that he left… More »

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

The revival of Indo-Pak Test ties could take place in UAE. More »

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

'This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy' More »

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Apart from the foreign players a lot of behind-the-scene activity has taken place in selecting the Indian domestic players. More »

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian… More »

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

Kiwi all-rounder wants to utilise the India leg to explore the country’s tourist attractions. More »

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Says his mother made him change his mind. More »

Supreme Court says no to BCCI’s request

Supreme Court says no to BCCI’s request

Bench refuses to grant access to recordings of Srini and Dhoni’s depositions before Mudgal committee. More »

Pietersen’s ‘little’ secret is out

Pietersen’s ‘little’ secret is out

A fractured little finger could now throw the Delhi Daredevils captain out of action at the start of this season. More »

SMA Trophy gets short-changed

SMA Trophy gets short-changed

Key players are away preparing for the IPL, taking the shine off the other domestic T20 fixture. (CYCSPL) More »