ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Six leading lawmakers from Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn Party were arrested in the last week following a probe into the party’s alleged illegal activities. The arrests came after anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed to death last month, allegedly by a man involved in Golden Dawn. Here’s a look at the six lawmakers:
The 56-year-old extreme rightist founded the Golden Dawn party in the early 1980s and spent decades trying to galvanize support. He was jailed in the late 1970s for his connection to a string of bombings of that included movie theaters screening films from the Soviet Union. For years, he wrote articles praising Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, but he dropped the wartime references in recent years, describing Hitler only as “a great historic personality.”
Golden Dawn was a fringe party for much of its existence but its support exploded after Greece sank into a financial crisis in 2009 and the party began patrols in areas with high crime, which it blamed on immigrants. In 2012, Golden Dawn rose to win nearly 7 percent of the vote and 18 seats in the 300-member Parliament. It’s now the country’s third most popular party.
The 33-year-old special forces veteran is a rising star in Golden Dawn, a spokesman who is openly racist, athletic and prone to explosive outbursts. He has a university education, a swastika tattoo on his arm. He won notoriety last year after slapping Communist lawmaker Liana Kanelli, 59, in the face on live television. He has already declared himself to be a candidate for mayor of Athens in the vote next year.
The son of an army lieutenant general who was staunchly loyal to Greece’s 1967-74 military dictatorship, the 51-year-old Pappas is a top party ideologue with links to European fascists. He started a publishing company in the mid-1990s selling extreme-right literature, when Golden Dawn saw an increase of interest amid a wave of nationalism sweeping the Balkans after the fall of Communism in eastern Europe. Police say his home in northwest Greece was filled with Nazi memorabilia.
Burly and bald, the 40-year-old Panagiotaros runs a sports goods and army surplus store. Considered one of the party’s chief activists, he once led an ultra-nationalist football fan group. Panagiotaros speaks fluent English and often stands at the front of party protests aimed at aggressively disrupting opponents’ gatherings. He also played a significant role in supporting Golden Dawn’s vigilante-style patrols of run-down neighborhoods and its Greeks-only food distributions.
There’s no mistaking Lagos, 41, with his muscular physique and a handlebar mustache that he recently grew out into a full beard. He represents a run-down area west of Athens where Golden Dawn has made significant gains and where the left-wing rapper Fyssas was stabbed to death. The area is a political battleground with the far left. Lagos is at the center of the current criminal probe: he was remanded in custody pending trial — the only lawmaker to be jailed. A date has not been set.
The 44-year-old is a close ally of Michaloliakos. He rarely seeks the limelight but is a front-line member of the party’s aggressive public actions, including party inspections of open air markets, aimed largely at rooting out immigrants.