Police in Greece captured the deputy head of the neo-Nazi organisation Golden Dawn on Thursday, a police source said. He had eluded punishment since being sentenced to more than 13 years in prison in October.
Christos Pappas has been on the run since a historic trial sentenced over 50 Golden Dawn defendants to prison on crimes ranging from operating a criminal organisation to murder, assault, and illegal weapons possession.
The 59-year-old Pappas was detained at a house in the Athens suburb of Zografou after being sentenced to jail for his leadership position in the organisation, according to a police source.
According to a police statement, Pappas will be transported to a prosecutor on Friday.
According to the statement, a 52-year-old lady who was reportedly concealing him in her house was also detained.
Pappas, a moustachioed former furniture shop owner whose lieutenant general father was part of the 1967 army coup that imposed a seven-year dictatorship in Greece, was regarded as a key Golden Dawn theorist.
He is a well-known admirer of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini and a collector of fascist artefacts.
After former senior member Ioannis Lagos, a member of the European Parliament, was extradited from Belgium in May, Pappas was the final Golden Dawn cadre to elude punishment.
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 evaded arrest in 2013, when top Golden Dawn members were apprehended in connection with the murder of anti-fascist artist Pavlos Fyssas – the act that brought the organisation to its knees.
At the time, authorities had discovered swastika flags, two German army helmets, and bottles with pictures of Benito Mussolini when investigating Pappas’ residence.
The Golden Dawn trial, which began in 2015, has been called one of the most important in Greek political history.
The court acknowledged that the openly racist and anti-Semitic organisation was led by a military-style leader who urged migrants and political opponents to be beaten.
– 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.
Nikos Michaloliakos, the organization’s founder and longtime leader, has also been sentenced to more than 13 years in jail, along with numerous other top party members.
During Greece’s decade-long financial crisis, the erstwhile fringe party secured 18 seats in parliament in 2012 by capitalising on anti-austerity and anti-migrant sentiment.
At its peak in 2013, the party polled 10% of the vote, making it Greece’s third most popular party.
However, once the group’s illicit actions were revealed in trial evidence, its power began to wane.
It did not gain a single seat in the 2019 legislative election.