Four MPs from Greece's Golden Dawn brought to court

  • 1 October 2013
  • From the section Europe
Media captionThe BBC's Mark Lowen on tight security at Athens court where far right Golden Dawn members appeared on Tuesday

Four MPs from Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party have been brought to court in Athens to face charges of criminal activity amid a clampdown on the party.

Other charges against them include murder, assault and money-laundering.

They were arrested over the weekend along with the party's leader and his deputy - both of whom are due to appear in court later this week.

In all 22 people were detained amid anger over the murder on 18 September of anti-racist musician Pavlos Fyssas.

A man held for the stabbing told police he was a Golden Dawn supporter, though the party strongly denies any link.

Media captionThe MPs' arrival at the Greek capital's main courthouse complex attracted a large media presence.

The four MPs - Ilias Panagiotaros, party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, Yannis Lagos and Nikos Michos - were being formally charged on Tuesday.

A small group of supporters applauded as the MPs arrived at the Greek capital's main courthouse complex, escorted by masked guards, Greece's Kathimerini news website reports.

Mr Kasidiaris previously caused controversy last year when he attacked two female left-wing politicians during a live TV debate, slapping one and throwing water over another.

The party's leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos, and his deputy Christos Pappas are expected to appear in court on Wednesday or Thursday.

Prosecutors will then decide whether to keep those arrested in custody until they face trial.

Details from witness testimony have been emerging about the way in which the party operated, the BBC's Mark Lowen reports from Athens.

The testimony speaks of a strict hierarchical structure - or "'Fuehrer principle" as the indictment calls it - as well as assault squads and military-style training, our correspondent says.

Searches of the homes of some MPs have found Nazi paraphernalia, he adds.

'Shame of neo-Nazism'

Last week details emerged of the careful planning behind Greece's unprecedented clampdown on the party - the first time since 1974 that a party leader and MPs have been arrested.

According to Greek media reports, several police officers thought to have had links to Golden Dawn were suspended ahead of the operation to prevent them potentially tipping off the targets.

Media captionGolden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris was apparently provoked when his alleged involvement in an armed robbery was mentioned

Police also arrested one of their own colleagues who was reportedly working as a bodyguard for the party, during a raid on its offices in the western town of Agrinio a week ago.

After the raid on Mr Michaloliakos's home, police said they had found three pistols, ammunition and thousands of euros in cash.

The crackdown has was sparked by outrage at the murder of rapper Pavlos Fyssas, 34, whose stage name was Killah P.

George Roupakias, 45, who said he was a supporter of Golden Dawn, was arrested in connection with the killing.

On Friday, Golden Dawn - which won nearly 7% of the vote in 2012 elections - threatened to pull its 18 MPs out of the 300-strong parliament.

The governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, which has 155 seats, would then face by-elections.

Speaking on a visit to the US on Monday, Mr Samaras vowed to eradicate the "shame of neo-Nazism".

In recent months, Golden Dawn has been accused of perpetrating attacks on migrants and political opponents.

Golden Dawn officially denies being a neo-Nazi movement, though its badge resembles a swastika, and some senior members have praised Adolf Hitler.

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