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Gay Jesus raises Greek hackles

Athens - An American play portraying Jesus Christ as homosexual has set the scene for new tension in Greece between a resurgent neo-Nazi group and rights proponents who accuse its members of intimidation.

Police late on Friday briefly detained over 30 people outside an Athens theatre where the play Corpus Christi was playing, who were seeking to have the show banned.

A Greek orthodox monk with his face covered to protect from tear gas holds a wooden cross during a protest for a second day against a play depicting Jesus as gay, in Athens on Friday, Oct. 12 2012. Police used tear gas to disperse dozens of Christian activists that rallied outside the theater during the opening night of U.S. playwright Terrence McNally's play "Corpus Christi." About 35 protesters were detained by police. (AP Photo/Kostas Tsironis). Credit: AP

Originally staged in New York in 1998, Corpus Christi by Terrence McNally depicts Jesus and the Apostles as gay men living in modern-day Texas.

The neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn had sent several members, including some of its lawmakers, to block the doors of the theatre and turn away spectators on Thursday.

“This is a blasphemous play,” lawmaker Ilias Panagiotaros told reporters, later unleashing a foul-mouthed tirade against Albanians and homosexuals.

The play's director Laertis Vassiliou was born in Albania.

“It was a night of terror,” said writer Petros Tatsopoulos, a lawmaker for the main opposition radical leftist party Syriza.

“The Golden Dawn members twisted the doors so the actors could not get out, and to keep us from getting in,” he told Mega channel.

Once on the fringe of Greek society, Golden Dawn has been flexing its muscles after picking up over 400 000 votes in recent elections on the back of immigration and crime fears.

It has sent squads of black-clad members to intimidate foreign peddlers at open-air markets, has publicly intimidated political opponents, and is believed to be behind an escalating campaign of migrant beatings around the country. - Sapa-AFP

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