Two top officials of Greece's extreme-right Golden Dawn party were arrested Saturday on charges of forming a criminal organization, marking the first time since 1974 that sitting members of Parliament have been arrested.
In a text message to journalists, police announced the arrests of party leader Nikos Michaloliakos and spokesman Ilias Kassidiaris.
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Two police officials said an operation by the counterterrorism unit is still ongoing, with warrants for "3 or 4 other" Golden Dawn deputies still pending. A total of about 35 arrest warrants for Golden Dawn members have been issued, they said.
They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak publicly.
The arrests have come 11 days after the killing of a left-wing activist rapper by an alleged Golden Dawn member. Though the party has vehemently denied any role in the killing, it has appeared to dent its appeal among Greeks and the government has worked to crack down on the party.
A formerly marginal organization with neo-Nazi roots, Golden Dawn entered the Greek Parliament for the first time in May 2012, capitalizing on Greece's deep financial crisis, rising crime and anti-immigrant sentiment, polling just under 7 percent. It has 18 deputies.
A government spokesman refused to comment on the details of the operation.
"Democracy can protect itself. Justice will do its job," government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou told reporters.
The party's members and supporters have frequently been suspected of carrying out violent attacks, mainly against immigrants. Despite its reputation for violence, the party had enjoyed growing popularity as poverty has risen in Greece.
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