Irish Times | Jun. 7, 2012
The spokesman for Greece’s extremist far-right Golden Dawn party caused an uproar today when he physically assaulted two left-wing deputies on live television during a morning political show.
Tempers frayed on the political show on the private Antenna television station during a discussion on the country’s politics in the run-up to repeat elections on June 17th.
Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris took offence at a reference by radical left Syriza party member Rena Dorou over a court case pending against him.
Mr Kasidiaris (31) bounded out of his seat and hurled a glass of water across the table over Ms Dorou when she said there was a “crisis of democracy when people who will take the country back 500 years have got into the Greek parliament”.
He then turned on prominent Communist Party member Liana Kanelli, who had got out of her chair with a newspaper in hand and appeared to throw it at the Golden Dawn member.
Talk show host Giorgos Papadakis ran over to Mr Kasidiaris to attempt to calm him, shouting “no, no, no”, but Mr Kasidiaris, who served in the Greek military’s special forces, hit Ms Kanelli around the face three times.
Mr Kasidiaris was elected to parliament in the country’s recent inconclusive polls. Deputies from all seven parties that won parliament seats in the May 6th polls had been invited on the show.
A public prosecutor ordered his immediate arrest for the attacks.
Government spokesman Dimitris Tsiodras said: “The government condemns in the most categorical way the attack by Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris against Liana Kanelli and Rena Dourou. This attack is an attack against every democratic citizen.”
Mr Tsiodras called on Golden Dawn to condemn its member’s actions.
Golden Dawn, which vehemently denies the neo-Nazi label, has been accused of being behind violent attacks against immigrants.
The party won nearly 7 per cent of the vote on May 6th, giving it 21 seats in the 300-member parliament. It was a radical increase from its showing in the previous elections in 2009, when the party won just 0.31 per cent of the vote.
The Syriza party said the attack by Mr Kasidiaris “put on public display what was widely known - the true face of this criminal organisation”.
The topic on the TV show was Greece’s natural resources but it went off on a tangent about political history in Greece, which suffered a vicious civil war between communists and the right-wing after the Second World War, and a seven-year military dictatorship that ended in 1974.
Mr Kasidiaris, his temper wearing thin, launched an insult of “you old Commie” at Ms Kanelli, who in return called him a “fascist”, before it turned to violence.
Mr Papadakis tried and failed to restrain him. The channel cut to a commercial break and returned five minutes later without Mr Kasidiaris.
Mr Kasidiaris is accused of participation in a 2007 attack on a student. He faces charges of assisting in robbery and bodily harm after his car was allegedly used in the incident in which a student had his identity card stolen. He claims the accusation is politically motivated by Syriza members. The case was to be heard in court yesterday but has been postponed until Monday.
Mr Papadakis and Ms Kanelli later said attempts had been made to restrain Mr Kasidiaris after the incident by shutting him in a room in the TV channel’s building, but he broke through the door and left.
Police are searching for him to serve the arrest warrant, which under Greek law must be carried out within 24 hours of an incident.
Golden Dawn responded to the incident by claiming Ms Kanelli first attacked Mr Kasidiaris, “hitting him unprovoked in the face with a packet of documents”.
“Golden Dawn continues its fight for a strong nationalist movement against everyone, and naturally against the orphans of Marx, who dominate on the (broadcast) channels and are playing a dirty propaganda game,” the party said in a statement.
“If you want us to condemn our co-fighter for a truly unfortunate moment, you should first condemn the insults and the attack by Liana Kanelli, otherwise you are nothing but sad hypocrites following orders.”