ATHENS, Greece — Greek judges on Thursday jailed a ninth lawmaker in connection with a criminal investigation into the Nazi-inspired Golden Dawn — the country’s third most popular party.
Ilias Kassidiaris, a prominent Golden Dawn lawmaker, faces illegal firearms charges that, if proved in court, carry a maximum 20-year prison sentence. About 100 party supporters shouted slogans as police led Kassidiaris from a court complex to Athens’ maximum-security Korydallos Prison.
Greek authorities launched a judicial crackdown on Golden Dawn after the fatal stabbing last year of a leftist musician, allegedly by a party supporter.
Half the 18 lawmakers elected with Golden Dawn in 2012 have now been jailed pending trial for allegedly running a criminal organization, including leader Nikos Michaloliakos. All deny any wrongdoing and claim they are being persecuted on political grounds as the conservative-led government fears the party’s growing popularity among right-wing voters.
Police found two shotguns in Kassidiaris’ house near Athens in a search last year, and claim he illegally modified them and planned to supply them for use in criminal acts by Golden Dawn members. He already faces charges of running a criminal organization.
No trial date has been set.
Kassidiaris rejected the charges as “a joke,” arguing Thursday that the guns carry legal documentation, while his lawyer alleged that judges had been pressured to jail Kassidiaris.
“How could any intelligent human being believe that a criminal organization could be supplied with registered weapons?” Nikos Antoniadis told reporters. “(My client) was set free after facing the main charges (of running a criminal organization) and is now being jailed for two … registered weapons.”
Formerly marginal, Golden Dawn surged in popularity on a wave of anti-immigrant and ant-establishment sentiment during Greece’s financial crisis. It rejects the neo-Nazi label, but is overtly fond of Nazi German ideology, anthems, slogans and insignia.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press