Ten Greek police officers linked to Golden Dawn crimes

Ten Greek police officers linked to Golden Dawn crimes

Athens (AFP) - A probe conducted by Greek police's internal affairs department has connected 10 officers to neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn's criminal activities, authorities said Wednesday.

"Overall 15 officers were arrested for various crimes... 10 of them were directly or indirectly linked to criminal activities of Golden Dawn," the head of the internal affairs department Panagiotis Stathis said during a press conference.

Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias ordered the investigation at the end of September, following allegations of police officers covering up or tolerating the neo-Nazi party's illegal activities.

The internal affairs department also investigated alleged police involvement in incidents of racist attacks.

"Between 2009 and October 2013, there was a huge rise in officers' involvement in incidents of extreme police behaviour, which reached a peak in 2012," Stathis said.

"Greek police is conducting a self-cleansing operation," Dendias added in a separate statement.

Authorities are cracking down on Golden Dawn following the murder of an anti-fascist rapper on September 18 by a self-confessed neo-Nazi.

Six of the party's elected MPs have so far been charged in connection with a wide-ranging investigation into the group.

Three have been placed in pre-trial detention in a high-security Athens prison, including party leader Nikos Michaloliakos who is accused of running a criminal organisation.

Once just a fringe party, Golden Dawn has benefitted from a rise in social tensions in the heavily indebted country.

It was first elected into parliament last year, winning 18 seats, making it the country's third most popular party.

Court documents have linked Golden Dawn to two murders, three attempted murders and numerous assaults, while witnesses have testified that senior party members were involved in migrant beatings, extortion and possible arms smuggling.

Police have long been accused by rights groups and Greek opposition parties of turning a blind eye to Golden Dawn's activities.