Christos Pappas, a lawmaker and the parliamentary spokesman of the nationalist Golden Dawn party, turned himself in to police today after a warrant was issued for his arrest yesterday.
“I’ve come voluntarily, have nothing to fear and nothing to hide,” Pappas told reporters in comments televised live on Skai TV as he arrived at police headquarters in Athens. “The occupation coalition government of the memorandum is carrying out an unprecedented persecution using a so-called independent justice system.”
Pappas and five other Golden Dawn lawmakers who were arrested yesterday, including the party’s leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, are charged with participation in a criminal organization, according to a statement on the Greek police force’s website.
Authorities have stepped up pressure on the movement since the death of a 34-year-old man, described by local media as an anti-fascist rapper. Police said a Golden Dawn supporter confessed to the Sept. 18 killing, which was followed by police raids on the group’s offices and a judicial probe into whether the party can be banned or characterized as a criminal gang to limit its activities.
Golden Dawn, which denied any involvement in the Sept. 18 killing, has 18 lawmakers in Greece’s 300-seat parliament. Polls suggest that while backing for the anti-immigrant political movement has fallen since the killing, it is still the country’s third-most popular party. Voter support for the group fell to 6.8 percent from 9.1 percent in June, an MRB poll published today showed.
The party, which includes officials who have expressed admiration for Adolf Hitler, got 7 percent of the vote in the June 2012 elections, tapping into a vein of protest and anger against record unemployment that has accompanied a recession now in its sixth year.