Greek government accused to influencing judges in neo-Nazi party probe

A senior aide to Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras resigned last week after the extreme-right Golden Dawn party published a video showing him suggesting the government had tried to press judges to jail Golden Dawn leaders for political reasons.

Government Secretary General Takis Baltakos did not refer directly to the comments he made in the video, but said he was stepping down because of the furor caused by the video released online and shown on television.

Police and magistrates have been investigating charges that Golden Dawn, its members and supporters were involved in a series of violent attacks, including the killing of a left-wing rapper in September. The party, which rode a wave of anger against harsh austerity measures to become the third largest political force at elections in 2012, has denied any wrongdoing and accused the government of a politically motivated crackdown.

Golden Dawn's leader and other senior members have been detained pending trial on charges of belonging to a criminal organization.

The video, which appeared to have been secretly recorded, shows Baltakos talking to a person off screen. When asked in the video why the MPs had been detained, Baltakos makes a hand gesture of a phone call being made. When asked if Justice Minister Charalambos Athanassiou and Police Minister Nikos Dendias made the call, he replies: "Who else?"

Both ministers issued a statement denying any involvement. Athanassiou said: "Greek justice is independent".

Without referring to the video, Baltakos said in a statement that he had talked to Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris, who accused him of being part of a conspiracy against the party. "I denied it and tried to get rid of the pressure. Everything I said during the discussion was aimed at this, and nothing else, just to get rid of this pressure," Baltakos said. "I submitted my resignation due to the uproar and for personal reasons. I'm sorry for the trouble caused," he added.

Kasidiaris, a Golden Dawn lawmaker, had earlier presented a copy of what he called a transcript of the video to parliament, saying it proved the investigations were a government conspiracy. "A senior government official confesses that the charges were pressed against Golden Dawn because it's stealing votes from Samaras," Kasidiaris told lawmakers.

Parliament later on Wednesday voted to strip legal immunities from Kasidiaris and four other Golden Dawn lawmakers, clearing the way for another round of criminal charges against its members. Four of the lawmakers named on Wednesday, including the party leader's wife Eleni Zaroulia, will now be charged with belonging to a criminal organization, said authorities. Kasidiaris faces a lesser charge of carrying an unregistered firearm.

The Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) expressed "strong resentment that a government official was in conversation with a declared anti-Semite and Holocaust denier." In a statement, KIS added: "We repeat our firm position and once more call upon the democratic political parties to join forces and combat the morphemes of Nazism in our country within the framework of the Constitution and the rule of law." KIS said that Greece and Europe had a "duty to isolate those who seek the return of Nazism, and those who disseminate racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic ideas, in order to safeguard democracy."

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