By Mick Krever and Annabel Archer, CNN
Greece is determined to rid its police of “any racist elements,” Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.
“We have ordered a full-scale investigation by the internal department of the Greek police,” Dendias said. “Please allow me to say that we are adamant in our target to clean up the Greek police from any racist elements.”
Elements of the Greek police have been widely criticized as not only targeting minority groups, but being complicit with right-wing groups like the Golden Dawn, which has a neo-Nazi following.
Greece has seen a rise in racist attacks, which are up 20% according over last year, according to the head Greece’s National Commission for Human Rights.
But the dire economic situation in Egypt, Dendias said, is no excuse.
“Unemployment does exist. An economic crisis does exist. The Greek people, the Greek society is under considerable stress,” Dendias told Amanpour from Athens. “But that is no excuse, and it will not be accepted as the excuse for the reappearance of a neo-Nazi phenomenon. Neo-Nazism is completely unacceptable.”
Prosecutors are cracking down on Golden Dawn, charging the top leadership with running a criminal organization.
The action is largely seen as a response to last month’s killing on an anti-fascist musician; he was stabbed, allegedly, but a Golden Dawn supporter.
When police raided the house of Golden Dawn’s deputy leader, they found swastikas and Hitler paraphernalia.
Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has said enough is enough.
“This government,” Samaras said, “is determined not to allow the descendants of Nazis to poison our lives, to commit crimes, to terrorize, and to undermine the foundations of the country that gave birth to democracy.”
Nonetheless, Golden Dawn is Greece’s third most-popular party, with 18 seats in parliament.
“What we are just doing is we are asking is for the judiciary to implement the law,” Dendias told Amanpour. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
Following the murder of the artist, Pavlos Fyssas, the Greek government was able to establish a “full chain of command” linking the killing to the Golden Dawn.
“We were able to reveal to the Greek society the true nature of that party,” he said. “I believe that the following of that party will greatly diminish as the truth becomes apparent to the Greek society.”