Athens.- Masked anti-terror police officers escort Golden Dawn Deputy of State Christos Pappas, who shouts as he leaves the investigating magistrate at the Athens courthouse in Athens, late on Thursday.
Arrests of Golden Dawn members continued Friday as the far-right party’s number two, Christos Pappas, was taken to Korydallos Prison, where he will be held in pretrial custody with leader Nikos Michaloliakos and fellow MP Yiannis Lagos.
The anti-terrorist squad Friday arrested one of the two men suspected of being at the cafe where rapper Pavlos Fyssas spent the evening with friends shortly before he was murdered by a Golden Dawn member last month. The suspect, who was not named but has been identified as an air force reservist, is thought to be one of the GD members who informed others on the night of September 17 that Fyssas’s friend had made fun of the extremist party. A group of about 50 people chased the hip-hop artist and his acquaintances, resulting in Giorgos Roupakias stabbing the 34-year-old twice.
Another suspect handed himself over to police, taking to 29 the number of Golden Dawn members and MPs that have been arrested. Authorities have issued charges against a total of 32 suspects, relating to a range of offenses that have been grouped under the allegation that they were committed by a criminal organization.
The arrests came as a 54-year-old police officer, who served with the security police, was remanded in custody over alleged abuse of power, illegal possession of weapons and other charges. Another police officer, the head of security police in the Athens neighborhood of Zografou, was suspended Friday over illegal possession of weapons.
The 54-year-old is alleged to have illegally sold weapons with the help of a Golden Dawn parliamentary candidate, Themis Skordeli, who was also remanded in custody Friday. Two more people, a retired policeman and the 54-year-old’s wife, face charges in connection to this case.
Three Golden Dawn members appeared in court Friday in connection with an attack on Communist Party supporters in Perama, western Athens, on September 12. They were given until October 11 to prepare their defenses. A fourth suspect is being sought over the incident, which left six victims needing hospital treatment.
Golden Dawn MP Pappas was transferred to maximum-security Korydallos jail Friday after a judge and prosecutor deemed that there was substantial evidence against him and that, in Michaloliakos’s absence, as stand-in party leader he could prompt more crimes to be committed. During his deposition, Pappas had denied that Golden Dawn was involved in any illegal activities and rejected claims that it adopted Nazi ideology. Earlier this week, Swastika flags, SS helmets and other Nazi paraphernalia were found at Pappas’s Ioannina home.
Michaloliakos also denied during his deposition that he led a neo-Nazi party. “National socialist positions do not have anything to do with the actual ideology of Golden Dawn, which defends the principles and positions of Greek nationalism,” he reportedly said during his questioning late on Wednesday night. Michaloliakos also distanced himself from articles he had written in praise of Nazism in his party’s magazine several years ago.
Also Friday, Supreme Court prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani ordered an investigation into whether a wanted businessman was involved in illegally supplying Golden Dawn with weapons. Earlier this week, a British man called Edward Pringle-Stacey wrote via his lawyer to the Supreme Court to provide information that he thought may be useful for authorities in their search for weapons that Golden Dawn could be hiding.
Pringle-Stacey alleged that in 2011, when he was working with Anastasios Pallis, an ex-associate of ship owner Victor Restis, he saw a collection of about 4,000 firearms at premises owned by Pallis, who is currently wanted by authorities for the illegal possession of 70 guns. According to the witness from Britain, the weapons included AK-47 and M-16 assault rifles.
Pringle-Stacey filed charges of abduction and attempted blackmail against Pallis last month, claiming he was held against his will at Athens International Airport by three men that were working for Pallis, who tried to get him to sign a document while he was there.
Restis is currently in custody for alleged embezzlement at First Business Bank, where he was the main shareholder.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras met with key ministers and New Democracy figures about three months before the Golden Dawn leadership was arrested to discuss how best to confront the far-right party, including the option of banning it.
Kathimerini understands that Samaras held a meeting with his close advisers Chrysanthos Lazaridis, Costas Bouras, Giorgos Mouroutis and Takis Baltakos and State Minister Dimitris Stamatis, Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias, government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou, ND parliamentary spokesman Makis Voridis and party secretary Andreas Papamimikos to assess his options.
The meeting was called after it became obvious that Golden Dawn’s MPs and members were acting with impunity and that the party continued to perform well in opinion polls.
Dendias, Lazaridis and Voridis were in favor of exploring the option of banning the neo-Nazi party but others who took part in the meeting feared that this would only increase its popularity. The meeting concluded that the best tactic was to tackle Golden Dawn’s actions through available legal means.
However, it was not until the attack on Communist Party workers in Perama and the violent behavior of GD MPs at a WWII memorial in Meligalas last month that Samaras asked Justice Minister Haralambos Athanasiou to intervene as judicial authorities were not taking any action against the party.
It was the murder of Pavlos Fyssas on September 17 that provided the government the opportunity to pursue Golden Dawn and its leadership as a criminal organization.