Greek police arrest Golden Dawn far-right party leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos as head of 'criminal organisation'

 

Greek police have arrested Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, the far right leader Golden Dawn party today on charges of founding a criminal organisation, police officials announced.

Four Golden Dawn MPs, the leader of an Athens suburb and nine other party members have also been arrested on charges of forming a criminal organization, in an escalation of a government crackdown after a fatal stabbing allegedly committed by a supporter.

Party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris was among those detained. Golden Dawn deputy, Ilias Panayiotaros, gave himself up at police headquarters, telling police they were looking for him at a wrong address. Another lawmaker, Yannis Lagos, has also been arrested.

The party is now calling on it's supporters to hold a rally in front of police headquarters.

The stabbing to death of anti-facist rapper Pavlos Fissas on 17 September sparked violent protests in the capital of Athens.

Authorities in Greece are investigating the party for links with the 34-year-old's death by a self-proclaimed Golden Dawn supporter.

"The Secretary General and one lawmaker of the Golden Dawn Party were arrested a short while ago after arrest warrants were issued," Greek police said in a text message to journalists.

The two men arrested were party's leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos and spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, officials said.

Golden Dawn, the country's third most popular political party according to opinion polls, has denied any links to the rapper's killing and Mihaloliakos has warned it may pull its 18 lawmakers from parliament if the crackdown does not stop.

A formerly marginal organization with neo-Nazi roots, Golden Dawn entered the Greek Parliament for the first time in May 2012, capitalizing on Greece's deep financial crisis, rising crime and anti-immigrant sentiment.

The party's members and supporters have come under frequent suspicion over violent attacks, mainly against immigrants.

A government spokesman refused to comment on the details of the operation.

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