ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Two Greeks were charged Friday with the fatal stabbing of a Pakistani immigrant, which rights groups and mainstream political parties have denounced as a racist attack amid a surge in anti-immigration sentiment that has gripped recession-ravaged Greece.
The suspects, both in their 20s, were charged with murder and weapons offenses. The men appeared before prosecutors who ordered their detention until they face a magistrate Sunday.
They were arrested early Thursday, shortly after the 27-year-old victim was attacked by two men on a motorcycle while cycling to work in Athens. Police said the suspects claim they had no intent to kill the man, and that the stabbing followed an argument over who had the right of way.
But several knives were found in the suspects' homes, while one contained dozens of pamphlets for the ultra-right Golden Dawn party, authorities said. Golden Dawn entered parliament last year, rising from the margins of politics to gain nearly 7 percent of the vote, and is now polling as the country's No. 3 party. It denies accusations from its political opponents that it incites racist attacks and maintains a neo-Nazi agenda.
The killing follows a spate of violent attacks on immigrants in Greece, which is the main gateway for illegal migrants to the European Union with up to a 10th of its population born abroad. The country is struggling with a three-year financial crisis, which has demolished living standards and eroded employment to the tune of 1,000 jobs a day.
All mainstream parties have condemned the murder, and the Socialists — a junior partner in the three-party ruling coalition — on Friday called for the isolation of people instigating such attacks.
"Justice will deal with the young suspects," a party statement said. "As for those who have poisoned society with their racist, neo-Nazi rhetoric, (they will be dealt with) by all democratic citizens."
Human rights groups have recorded more than 70 racist attacks in Athens between January and September 2012. Most were carried out after dark in public areas and involved more than one aggressor.
Amnesty International said Thursday the killing "is a result of the Greek authorities' failure to take decisive action against racially-motivated violence."
A major anti-racist protest is planned in Athens on Saturday.