ATHENS (Reuters) - About 1,000 supporters of Greece's Golden Dawn party gathered outside parliament on Saturday to protest against the pre-trial detention of their leader Nikolaos Mihaloliakos on charges of forming a criminal organization.
Clad in black clothes, carrying torches and Greek flags, the ultra-right party's supporters shouted slogans such as "hands off Golden Dawn, don't jail nationalists" to the sound of Greek folk and marching songs.
The protest took place under the watch of riot police, mobilized to shield it from counter-rallies by rival leftist groups nearby. Events unfolded peacefully after police banned all marches in the area to prevent clashes.
It was Golden Dawn's most high-profile public action since a government crackdown against it in September, following the killing of an anti-fascist rapper by one of its supporters.
But the poor turnout of just a few hundred sympathizers showed Golden Dawn is still struggling to recover from the action of the authorities.
Thirteen of Golden Dawn's 18 lawmakers are either in pre-trial detention, face charges, or have had their parliamentary immunity lifted, as prosecutors build a case that its leadership was involved in paramilitary-style attacks against political opponents and immigrants.
The party rejects accusations of violence. All Golden Dawn lawmakers who have been charged or are investigated deny the allegations against them, saying they are being persecuted for their nationalist beliefs.
The party came out of nowhere in elections last year to win parliamentary seats, capitalizing on a rise in anti-immigrant sentiment amid record unemployment in the austerity-hit country.
Golden Dawn lost about a third of its support immediately after the rapper's death, according to opinion polls. But it recovered some of those losses in October, after the revenge killing of two of its supporters by a previously unknown, anti-establishment militant group.
A poll published on Saturday in newspaper Kosmos tou Ependyti showed Golden Dawn's support steady at 8.8 percent from 9.0 percent in October.
(Reporting by Harry Papachristou; Editing by Alistair Lyon)