ATHENS, Greece -- Justice Minister George Mangakis began investigating today how a taped message from imprisoned former military dictator Col. George Papadopoulos was smuggled out of his prison cell, the government announced.
Papadopoulos, in a 30-minute tape played at a mass rally Sunday, said Greece under Socialist Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou had reached a 'stage of crisis' and announced formation of a new extreme right-wing political party.
The former dictator, whose death sentence was commuted to life in prison, will head the new party's list of candidates for the June elections for the European Parliament, the legislative body of the 10-nation European Economic Community, party officials said. The taped message said the 'National Political Union' was being formed to revive right-wing opposition to Papandreou.
The tape was played for about 5,500 supporters of the former military leader outside Athens' Caravel Hotel, owned by backers of the ex-dictator. Some were moved to tears when they heard Papadopoulos' voice.
The crowd, sporting thousands of pictures of Papadopoulos, chanted his name and shouted 'our victory has begun.'
State-run radio and television refrained today from reporting Papadopoulos' announcement and Papandreou made no mention of the new party.
'The government is taking all the necessary steps to confront any measures undermining the parliamentary system of government,' government spokesman Dimitris Maroudas said.
Maroudas said Mangakis was investigating how the tape became public and warned the government would act 'without mercy against anyone trying to act outside the constitutional framework.'
The spokesman denied Papadopoulos' right to be a candidate for the European elections. 'It would be unconstitutional because he lost his political rights,' Maroudas said.
Party officials said Papadopoulos' proposed candidacy was in part an attempt to secure his release from prison. But the officials and lawyers for the former dictator declined to disclose how the Papadopoulos tape had been obtained.
Dimitrios Steiropoulos, one of the lawyers for the former dictator and a member of the executive committee of the new party, said Papadopoulos had a tape recorder in his prison cell 'to listen to music and study foreign languages.' Papadopoulos is believed to be attempting to improve his command of English.
Steiropoulos said Papadopoulos, who headed Greece's military junta from 1967 until 1973, was allowed a 30-minute family visit once a week and a twice weekly 60-minute visit by his lawyers.
Papadopoulos and other imprisoned former members of the junta were kept isolated from the other inmates of Athens Korydalos prison, the lawyer said.
'Matters in our country have never reached such a stage of crisis,' Papadopoulos said, speaking in Katharevousa, a revival of classic Greek used for official purposes and newspapers.
Papadopoulos attacked Papandreou's ruling Pan Hellenic Socialist Movement, saying, 'Greece's enslavement to the Marxists' must be stopped.
'The jailers are scared of the free will of the people, the ultimate judge,' he said.
Papadopoulos directed some of his attack against the opposition conservative New Democracy Party, which governed Greece from the fall of the military junta in 1974 until Papandreou's election in 1981.
Papadopoulos supporters criticized the New Democracy Party for not fulfilling its pledge to give amnesty to Papadopoulos and other junta members while it was in power.
The party has failed in the past two years while out of power to organize opposition to Papandreou's efforts to introduce sweeping socialist reforms, officials said.