The fatal stabbing of a rapper has prompted mounting calls in Greece for the banning of the far-right party Golden Dawn. Civil servants remain on strike for a second day over planned job cuts wanted by creditors.
The far-right opposition party in Greece's parliament, Golden Dawn, denied involvement in the murder of a popular hip hop singer as Greece remained in lock-down on Thursday because of a public servant strike over feared job cuts.
Wednesday's fatal stabbing of Pavlos Fyssas, an anti-fascist leftist, by a Golden Dawn sympathizer drew mounting condemnation across Greece's political spectrum as hundreds of mourners gathered for his funeral west of Athens.
Hours earlier, the president of the Socialists and Democrats Group in the European Parliament, Hannes Swoboda, had urged Greek authorities to consider banning the party altogether.
In elections last year, Golden Dawn got 18 seats in the 300-seat Greek parliament on a fierce anti-immigrant agenda. Its emblem resembles a swastika.
"Golden Dawn's openly xenophobic, neo-Nazi hatred even goes as far as murdering political opponents. This is shocking and intolerable by any standards, and more so in a European Union country," Swoboda said.
Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos, whose socialist party is part of Greece's three-way coalition government, said the far-right Golden Dawn should be treated as a "criminal organization."
Editorials slam murder
The liberal daily newspaper Kathimerini said in its Thursday editorial: "The cold-blooded murder of a citizen by a Golden Dawn supporter must awaken everyone."
"The monster of Nazism kills - resist", the centre-left daily Ethnos urged Greece's mainstream parties.
Golden Dawn's leader Nicholas Michaloliakos denied any involvement by his party in the murder of Fyssas, who as singer had had the pseudonym "Killah P."
Police arrested a 45-year-old alleged member of Golden Dawn on Wednesday, saying he had confessed to stabbing Fyssas outside a cafe in Athen's western working-class district of Keratsini. A knife with traces of blood was found near his car.
The victim's family said that Fyssas, 34, and a small group of friends had been ambushed by a large gang of Golden Dawn supporters.
Just days before Fyssas's killing, members of Greece's communist party were assaulted by alleged Golden Dawn supporters while putting up posters in another part of Athens.
Thousands of protestors staged anti-fascist demonstrations on Wednesday evening in six Greek cities, including Athens, culminating in clashes with police and scores of arrests. Police also searched the party's offices in Athens.
Near the stabbing scene, hundreds of protestors attacked a nearby police station. Police used tear gas to repel youths who threw rocks.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras called for calm during what he said was an "extremely critical time" for Greece.
"This government is determined to not allow descendents of Nazis to poison society, to commit crimes, to terrorize and to undermine the foundations of a country that gave birth to democracy," Samaras said in a televised address.
Anti-austerity protests morph
Wednesday's killing touched a raw nerve in Greece amid deep social tensions in the indebted eurozone nation, which is facing pressure from international lenders to initiate reforms before receiving further bailout tranches.
The government headed by conservative Prime Minister Samaras has pledged to axe 4,000 state jobs and redeploy 25,000 public sector workers by the end of the year.
Civil servants, including doctors, teachers, garbage collectors and social security staff, were expected to staged rallies across Greece a second day on Thursday as part of their two-day strike to protest impending job losses.
Greece is experiencing a sixth year of continuous recession and has a staggering 27 percent unemployment rate.
ipj/slk (dpa, Reuters, AP)