Fugitive Greek neo-Nazi deputy leader caught: police

Police in Greece on Thursday arrested the deputy leader of neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn who had evaded justice since he was sentenced to over 13 years in jail in October, a police source said.

Christos Pappas had been on the run since a landmark trial handed down sentences to more than 50 Golden Dawn defendants on charges including running a criminal organisation, murder, assault and illegal weapons possession.

Sentenced to prison for his leading role in running the outfit, the 59-year-old Pappas was arrested at a home in the Athens district of Zografou, a police source told AFP.

A police statement said Pappas would be taken to a prosecutor on Friday.

A 52-year-old woman allegedly hiding him in her home was also arrested, the statement said.

The mustachioed former furniture store owner, whose lieutenant general father was part of the 1967 army coup that installed a seven-year dictatorship in Greece, Pappas was considered a leading ideologue of Golden Dawn.

He is a noted fan of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and collector of fascist memorabilia.

Pappas was the last Golden Dawn cadre to evade justice, after former senior member Ioannis Lagos, a member of the European Parliament, was extradited from Belgium in May.

He had made it clear through his legal representation that he had not intended to turn himself in, hoping to secure a lighter sentence on appeal.

Pappas had also escaped arrest in 2013, when senior Golden Dawn members had been rounded up following the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas — the crime that led to the organisation’s undoing.

At the time, police searching Pappas’ home had found swastika flags, two German army helmets and bottles stamped with images of Benito Mussolini.

The Golden Dawn trial, which began in 2015, has been described as one of the most significant in Greek political history.

The court accepted that the openly xenophobic and anti-Semitic group operated under a military-style leadership that encouraged the beating of migrants and political opponents.

– Knuckle dusters, crowbars, knives –

Prosecutors outlined how Golden Dawn set up militias who roamed the streets, often armed with knuckle dusters, crowbars and knives.

Other crimes tied to the group include the murder of a Pakistani migrant, and beatings of four Egyptian fishermen in 2012 and a group of Communist unionists in 2013.

The organisation’s founder and longterm leader Nikos Michaloliakos has also been sentenced to more than 13 years in prison, alongside several other senior party members.

The former fringe party won 18 seats in parliament in 2012 after tapping into anti-austerity and anti-migrant anger during Greece’s decade-long debt crisis.

At the height of its power in 2013 the party was polling at 10 percent, making it Greece’s third most popular party.

But its influence began to ebb as the group’s criminal activities came to light in trial testimony.

It failed to win a single seat in the last parliamentary election in 2019.

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