Greek leftist legislator attacked at soccer match

AP News
Posted: Dec 16, 2012 5:32 PM

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — A leftist Greek lawmaker was attacked by three men at a soccer match Sunday who he said identified themselves as members of the extreme right Golden Dawn party. Another legislator from the same party said he was attacked by riot police at a separate soccer game.

Dimitris Stratoulis, of the Radical Left Coalition, said the trio threatened to kill him while striking him with several blows to the head. Spectators came to his aid and the assailants fled.

Stratoulis, 54, was with his adult son at the time of the attack. It happened in the concourse area of the Olympic Stadium during halftime of the match between AEK Athens and Atromitos, which ended in a 1-1 draw. Stratoulis, who was bloodied but didn't sustain serious injuries, filed a police complaint.

Golden Dawn has denied involvement in the attack.

"Golden Dawn had nothing to do with the incident against member of parliament Stratoulis at the Olympic Stadium. The leftist party hacks, who promote violence in demonstrations, should stop using the name of the Golden Dawn," a party statement said.

The Radical Left Coalition, also known by its acronym SYRIZA, earlier said they believed Golden Dawn was responsible.

"We demand the prompt arrest and prosecution of the perpetrators," the party said in a statement. "It is certain that tolerance towards the fascist Golden Dawn will lead to loss of life. The response must be immediate and decisive before it's too late."

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou and representatives from other political parties also condemned the attack.

In an unrelated incident in the central city of Volos, SYRIZA parliament member Alexandros Meikopoulos said he was the victim of violence by riot police who clashed with supporters of local club Niki shortly after the local second division derby with Olympiakos Volos had ended in a 0-0 draw.

Riot police were attacked when they tried to keep supporters of both teams from attacking each other. The police responded with tear gas and stun grenades, and struck Niki supporters with clubs.

Meikopoulos told a local radio station that he tried to mediate, but that when he showed his Greek parliament ID, he and his father were hit and pushed by police. Neither of the men was seriously injured.

A former marginal organization with a reputation for violence that used to boast of its neo-Nazi ideology, Golden Dawn won almost 7 percent of the vote in elections last June, running on an anti-immigrant platform. The party now stresses its nationalist credentials as it tries to expand its mass appeal. An analysis of the last election results showed that Golden Dawn seems to enjoy a better-than-average popularity among policemen.

SYRIZA, a mishmash of various leftist groupings that is aiming to evolve into a tightly organized party, have also benefited from Greece's financial crisis and dramatically expanded their electorate, from 4.6 percent in the last pre-crisis election, in 2009, to 26.9 percent in June, making them the second-largest party. They are ahead in recent opinion polls.