ATHENS, Greece (JTA) — In an unprecedented crackdown on the ultranationalist Golden Dawn party in Greece, its leader and several lawmakers were arrested.
On Saturday, Greek police from the counterterrorism unit arrested party leader Nikolaos Michaloliakos, party spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris and two other Golden Dawn lawmakers on charges of forming a criminal organization.
It marked the first time that sitting members of parliament have been arrested in Greece since the fall of the military junta in 1974.
The crackdown, which included the arrest of 10 other party leaders, follows widespread outrage and protests in Greece following the Sept. 18 killing of an anti-fascist rapper by a suspected Golden Dawn member.
The European Union, Jewish and other international groups have long urged the Greek government to act against Golden Dawn, which has been accused of being behind dozens of vicious attacks on immigrants in Greece.
The stabbing death of Pavlos Fyssas, a rapper known as Killah P, reportedly spurred the government to action.
In recent days, several senior police officers have been suspended or resigned following accusations that police colluded with Golden Dawn, which is openly racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic.
Some witnesses alleged that police stood by while Fyssas was stabbed by a black-shirted Golden Dawn member after an altercation in a bar.
Meanwhile, officials have promised a slew of other measures, including stepping up prosecutions against Golden Dawn members and pursuing ways to cut off state funding for the group.
Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou also vowed to bring the long-promised anti-racism bill to parliament “very soon.”
Golden Dawn has 18 seats in the 300-member parliament. The party is known for its Nazi swastika-like flag and Holocaust-denying leadership.