ATHENS (Reuters) - Two lawmakers from Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party were remanded to custody on Saturday pending trial on charges of belonging to a criminal group, on what prosecutors say is evidence linking the party to a series of attacks, including the killing of an anti-racism rapper in 2013.
Lawmakers Yorgos Germenis and Panagiotis Iliopoulos are the latest senior party officials to be jailed pending trial as part of a government crackdown on the party, which it has branded a “neo-Nazi criminal gang.”
Both men denied charges against them in a marathon plea session before investigating magistrates that ended late on Saturday after more than 12 hours. A trial date has not been set. All Golden Dawn lawmakers deny involvement in the killing.
”Golden Dawn is a legitimate political party taking on a sincere political struggle,“ Iliopoulos told reporters earlier on Saturday, flanked by dozens of flag-waving supporters, some chanting the party’s ”Blood! Honour! Golden Dawn! slogan.
“We will not buckle. Golden Dawn will be victorious - Greece will be victorious,” he said.
Party leader Nikos Mihaloliakos and dozens more senior party officials were arrested last September following the stabbing of rapper Pavlos Fissas and were charged on what prosecutors say is evidence linking the party to a series of attacks.
Another MP, Stathis Boukouras, was due to respond to the charges on Sunday. “All these lies will be forfeited - the truth will shine,” Boukouras said outside the court
The public arrests of the party’s top brass riveted the country, which has not witnessed a mass round-up of elected politicians since a military coup nearly five decades ago.
Golden Dawn rose from being a fringe party to win 18 seats in parliament in elections in 2012.
It has drawn on anger over the debt crisis, budget cuts, high unemployment and corruption to become the Greece’s third most popular party in surveys, but it lost about a third of its support after the killing.
As part of government efforts to clamp down on the party, parliament last year voted to cut off state funding for the group.
Golden Dawn, whose emblem resembles a swastika and whose members have been seen giving Nazi-style salutes, rejects the neo-Nazi label.
Reporting by Karolina Tagaris and Gina Kalovyrna