Athens: Greek far-right Golden Dawn (Chryssi Avgi) party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and several party members were arrested Saturday on charges of forming a criminal organisation.
As part of an unprecedented crackdown on neo-fascist violence in Greece, the arrests of Michaloliakos and party spokesman Elias Kassidiaris came after the killing of leftist activist Pavlos Fyssas Sep 18 in a Piraeus port suburb by a far-right extremist, which sparked fierce reactions nationwide.
Police confirmed the arrests.
According to police and judicial sources, a total of 38 arrest warrants have been issued for lawmakers and political party members amid the investigation into the murder.
It is the first time since the restoration of democracy in Greece in 1974 after a seven-year military rule that a political party`s leadership has been held.
"There are institutions safeguarding democracy. There are no dead ends," Greek government spokesperson Simos Kedikoglou said as Golden Dawn supporters called for protests.
Evidence gathered over the past few days points to the involvement of Golden Dawn`s leadership in criminal activities, according to sources.
The perpetrator, Yorgos Roupakias who had been arrested at the site of the murder, has been linked to top party members although Golden Dawn party officials have repeatedly rejected any connection.
Fyssas`s fatal stabbing has triggered a wave of anti-fascist protests across Greece, raids on Golden Dawn offices and the suspension of a dozen police officers for negligence.
Cases of far-right extremism against left political opponents and migrants had spiked after the party`s entry into parliament in the 2012 general elections.
Golden Dawn won 7 percent of the vote last year capitalising on Greeks` disillusionment with mainstream parties amidst austerity and recession.
After Fyssas`s killing, its popularity declined to less than 7 percent, according to the results of a survey released Thursday evening.
Seven out of 10 respondents in Alco polling firm`s survey said that they believe that Golden Dawn party is involved in the killing and should be regarded as a criminal gang.