ATHENS: Greece’s Golden Dawn neo-Nazi party regularly organized “assault militias” in which dozens of members would ride the streets on motorbikes, hitting immigrants with sticks, according to a government report and testimonies cited in the Greek press Monday.
“I took part several times in activities involving 50 or 60 motorbikes, with two people on each. The one who was sitting behind held a stick with the Greek flag and hit all the Pakistanis he could see,” one ex-member said in court testimony.
Greek police arrested the controversial party’s founder Nikos Michaloliakos, five prominent Golden Dawn lawmakers and more than a dozen other suspected members – including police officers – amid high tensions following the murder of anti-fascist musician Pavlos Fyssas, allegedly stabbed to death by a self-confessed Golden Dawn supporter on Sept. 18.
Testimonies from two former members, along with a report by an examining magistrate revealed a series of “criminal acts,” press reports said.
Golden Dawn has a “strictly hierarchical structure, the leader is all-powerful following the principle used by Hitler,” said the report by the deputy prosecutor of the Supreme Court, Charalambos Vourliotis.
The neo-Nazi party started its attacks in 1987, the report said, initially targeting immigrants and then turning against Greeks.
The magistrate’s report said party members were trained in military style and had allegedly committed dozens of criminal acts, including voluntary homicide and attempted homicide.
Police Monday continued their raids on Golden Dawn premises, searching for hidden arms supplies.
A search of Golden Dawn deputy leader Christos Pappas’ home in the northwestern city of Ioannina turned up photographs of Adolf Hitler, swastikas and German army helmets, reports said.
Greek authorities Monday were examining ways to cut off Golden Dawn’s funding from the state, to which all parliamentary parties are nominally entitled.
The Justice Ministry said it would table rush legislation to stop the institutional flow of state funds to the party.
Under the legislation, state funding would be suspended for a party if any members of its leadership or lawmakers were being prosecuted for felonies.
Golden Dawn, a formerly fringe nationalist group with neo-Nazi roots, enjoyed a meteoric rise in popularity during Greece’s financial crisis. With 18 lawmakers in the 300-member Parliament, it is slated to receive more than 873,000 euros ($1.18 million) in 2013.
“Democracy cannot fund its rivals,” said Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos. “Therefore when you have a criminal organization which is operating inside a political party, there must be sanctions regarding funding.”
Under the new legislation, funding would be suspended pending a trial outcome, Venizelos said.