BNP leader promises to back Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn

Nick Griffin criticises ‘illegal’ crackdown on far-right party

Nick Griffin, the head of the British National Party, pledged solidarity with the Greek far-right party Golden Dawn yesterday, as he criticised the Greek government’s “illegal” crackdown on the neo-Nazi group.

In the first joint press conference between the British and Greek ultra-nationalist right parties, the BNP leader addressed a packed room of Golden Dawn supporters in a central hotel in Athens.

“Shattering injustice is now being done and a dangerous precedent is now being set in Greece,” he said, accusing the Greek government of a “blatant assault on the fundamentals of democracy”.

Leader held
The Greek party yesterday announced plans to bring the recent crackdown on the far-right party, including the arrest of its leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos, to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Brandishing excerpts from the European Convention on Human Rights, and showing a video clip of the arrest of Mr Mihaloliakos last October, the party's spokesman said the actions of the Greek government were "illegal and undemocratic".


Mr Griffin, who was declared bankrupt in the UK last week, said he looked forward to working with Golden Dawn in the European Parliament should the party win seats in May’s European election. The possible alliance is an echo of last year’s team-up by Marine Le Pen’s National Front and the Dutch Party for Freedom, headed by Geert Wilders, who announced they would be campaigning side by side in May’s European elections.

While Golden Dawn has seen its support wane in the wake of last year’s murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fissas by a Golden Dawn supporter, it is still Greece’s third most popular party according to latest polls, with 18 seats in parliament. The party, which campaigns on an openly racist platform, was founded in 1980. Its spokesman said yesterday the salute used by its supporters was an ancient Greek gesture rather than one derived from the Nazis.

Mr Mihaloliakos’s wife, Eleni Zaroulia, also a member of parliament, delivered a letter from her husband in jail awaiting his trial next week on criminal charges. Thanking Mr Griffin for his support, Mr Mihaloliakos criticised the “brutal and illegal” persecution of the party. “Our common fight for a Europe of nations and not that of the bankers continues,” the letter stated.

In Athens earlier, Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras insisted the government had acted within the law by arresting figures in the party last year. Mr Mihaloliakos is charged with membership of a criminal organisation.

'Radical nationalism '
Mr Griffin, who has a masters in Law from Cambridge University, said he was confident the European Court of Human Rights would uphold Golden Dawn's case. "There will be one outcome – expensive and humiliating for the state, and a victory for radical nationalism," he said, comparing the actions of the Greek government to the "liberal tyranny" in Britain.

With political parties of the far-right and far-left gaining support across Europe as voters express disillusionment with mainstream parties’ handling of the economic crisis, political analysts are predicting a sharp rise in support for extremist parties in May’s European elections.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent