ATHENS, Sept 29 (Reuters) - The leader of Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party and four more of its lawmakers will make their pleas against charges of belonging to a criminal organisation on Oct. 1, after being arrested following the killing of an anti-fascist rapper.
They spent nine hours with prosecutors overnight and were taken at 3:30 a.m. (0030 GMT) back to police headquarters where they will be held until they appear before an investigating magistrate on Tuesday to respond to the charges.
The arrest of party leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, party spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, four other lawmakers and 13 party members was the biggest mass detention of lawmakers since the end of Greece’s military dictatorship in 1974.
The other suspects will appear in court to make their pleas on Wednesday, a court official said on condition of anonymity.
The party is being investigated over the stabbing to death of 34-year-old Pavlos Fissas on Sept. 17, which triggered outrage and protests across the country.
The party has denied any links to the killing and Mihaloliakos has warned that Golden Dawn may pull its lawmakers from parliament if the crackdown does not stop. That could force several by-elections.
Golden Dawn rose from obscurity to gain 18 seats in parliament last year on a virulently anti-immigrant agenda and is Greece’s third most popular party, according to opinion polls. Mihaloliakos is a Holocaust denier, party members have give Nazi-style salutes and their emblem resembles a swastika.
Members of parliament do not lose their political rights or seats unless there is a final court ruling against them. But the government has proposed a law that would block state funding for parties whose leaders or lawmakers are prosecuted for felonies.
One more lawmaker turned himself in on Sunday. “Long live Golden Dawn,” Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas shouted as he entered the Athens police headquarters.
Greek newspapers hailed the arrests, as a victory for democracy. “Golden Dawn’s Holocaust,” read the front page of the leftist Ethnos newspaper. “Democracy is knocking out the neo-Nazis,” read To Vima.