ATHENS, Greece – The leader of Greece’s extreme-right Golden Dawn Party and four other of its parliamentarians were formally charged Saturday with membership in a criminal organization with intent to commit crimes, in an escalation of a government crackdown after a fatal stabbing blamed on a supporter.
It was the first time since 1974 that sitting members of parliament have been arrested. The arrests underline the Greek government’s efforts to stifle the fiercely anti-immigrant party, which has been increasingly on the defensive since the killing.
Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos, party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris, and Yannis Lagos, Nikos Michos and Ilias Panayiotaros were arrested by counterterrorism police. A sixth parliamentarian, Christos Pappas – described in a prosecutor’s report as the Golden Dawn’s No. 2 – remains at large.
A further 15 people, including 13 Golden Dawn members and two police officers, have also been arrested and are due to appear before a prosecutor and an examining magistrate soon. They face the same charges.
The government ordered an investigation into Golden Dawn’s activities after the death of rapper Pavlos Fyssas on Sept. 18 sparked outrage across Greece. The suspect arrested for his death admitted to police that he had stabbed the 34-year-old and identified himself as a supporter of Golden Dawn.