Greek PM’s Top Aide Quits Over Golden Dawn Remarks

ATHENS, Greece (AP) -

A top aide to Greece’s conservative Prime Minister Antonis Samaras resigned Wednesday over a video in which he appeared to accuse Samaras of influencing a criminal investigation into a Nazi-inspired party to gain votes.

Cabinet Secretary Panayiotis Baltakos apologized and claimed he only made the comments because Golden Dawn party officials were accusing him of conspiring against them.

The incident is an embarrassment to Samaras’ troubled coalition, which has a tiny parliamentary majority and faces a strong challenge from the anti-austerity left-wing Syriza party in next month’s European Parliamentary elections.

Baltakos said that Cabinet ministers pressed judicial officials to remand Golden Dawn lawmakers in pre-trial detention. He also allegedly said Samaras “fears” Golden Dawn because it denied him a strong lead over Syriza.

Syriza said the video shows government opportunism in its crackdown on Golden Dawn and “creates a major political issue.”

Ultra-nationalist Golden Dawn grew strong amid the country’s economic depression and entered Parliament in 2012, winning 18 of the 300 seats. It ranks fourth in popularity surveys. But its leader is jailed for allegedly running a criminal organization.