Golden Dawn leader Nikos Michaloliakos has told a magistrate that he is the victim of political prosecution, adding that he condemns all forms of violence.
During a marathon session at the Evelpidon court complex in Athens that went on until early Thursday, Michaloliakos denied charges that his Golden Dawn party, which has 18 lawmakers in the 300-strong House, is a criminal organization.
“I feel sorry for the murder of [Pavlos] Fyssas,” he said of the 34-year-old rapper that was stabbed to death by a Golden Dawn member last month. “I condemn [the murder], like I condemn violence in general. I am not a Nazi,” said the 56-year-old mathematician.
Michaloliakos said he had no knowledge if individual members of Golden Dawn had broken the law. The activity of the party, he said, has been within the contours of parliamentary politics.
A decision on whether to remand Michaloliakos in custody was postponed. Sources said it would be announced after a testimony by Giorgos Patelis, the head of the local chapter of Golden Dawn in Nikaia, southwest of Athens, close to the run-down district of Keratsini where Fyssas was stabbed. Patelis's testimony was still ongoing at 3.20 a.m. Thursday.
Three senior Golden Dawn lawmakers were freed on Wednesday pending trial – a surprise decision that raised questions about the solidity of the state's case against the ultranationalist party.
Party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris and fellow lawmakers Ilias Panagiotaros and Nikos Michos stormed out of the court to cheers of “bravo” from supporters. They kicked and shoved journalists out of the way before hailing a taxi.
A fourth MP, Yiannis Lagos, was remanded in custody after a prosecutor and magistrate agreed that he was both a flight risk and likely to reoffend. It remained unclear why judicial officials believed that the same did not apply to Michos or to Kasidiaris, who faces a separate trial for assaulting two female MPs on live television last year.
Golden Dawn's second-in-command according to prosecutors, Christos Pappas, is scheduled to appear before a magistrate at 10 a.m. on Thursday.
Meanwhile, late on Wednesday police announced the arrest of Golden Dawn candidate Themis Skordeli. Reports said police found 145,000 euros in her apartment.