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Golden Dawn deputy behind bars after nine months on the run

Golden Dawn deputy behind bars after nine months on the run

The far-right extremist long regarded as Golden Dawn’s chief ideologue has been placed behind bars after nine months on the run, starting a 13-year prison sentence handed down by a Greek court in October.

Flushed out of his lair – a flat where he had been hiding in Athens – Christos Pappas, the now-defunct group’s deputy leader, was driven in a whirl of sirens on Friday from police headquarters to the courts and then on to jail in central Greece.

Less than 15 hours had elapsed since his capture by anti-terrorist units late on Thursday in the central Athens district of Zografou.

“Greece’s democracy struggled to shed this poison of the toxic Golden Dawn,” said government spokesperson Aristotelia Peloni. “The arrest of Christos Pappas brings this chapter of this criminal organisation to an end.”

Pappas was the last of the Golden Dawn cadres to evade justice after a historic trial ended last year with dozens of party operatives receiving lengthy jail terms. Ioannis Lagos, elected with the group as a member of the European parliament, had also attempted to avoid prison by using his political status to claim immunity but was arrested in Brussels in April and extradited the following month.

Addressing reporters, the country’s citizens protection minister, Michalis Chrysohoidis, described the seizure of the 60-year-old former deputy as “the result of methodical and systematic research”.

The ground-floor apartment belonged to a Ukrainian woman, who also appeared before a public prosecutor on Friday charged with aiding and abetting the fugitive. The 52-year-old was described as a far-right sympathiser.

As with other convicted Golden Dawn leaders, Pappas was found guilty of running a criminal operation under the guise of it being a political organisation, murder, assault and illegal weapons possession.

The verdict followed more than five years of court proceedings with the hearing described as one of the most significant in Greek political history. The tribunal ruled that the group not only exploited widespread anger at the height of the nation’s debt crisis to boost its standing but had targeted migrants and political opponents through armed militias that sowed terror on the streets of Athens and other major cities.

Once Greece’s third biggest political force, Golden Dawn began to unravel only after a popular anti-fascist rapper, Pavlos Fyssas, was fatally stabbed by a senior cadre in 2013.

The son of an army officer who had helped orchestrate the coup that ushered in seven years of military dictatorship in 1967, Pappas was the right-hand man of Nikos Michaloliakos, who founded what had originally been a fringe group.

Footage of the unrepentant fascist teaching his children the Nazi salute was found in his home along with Nazi paraphernalia when authorities first cracked down on the party.

Pappas’s escape, while being supposedly under police surveillance, hugely embarrassed the Greek authorities.

The hunt for the convicted neo-Nazi had stretched from monasteries thought to be harbouring him on Mount Athos to neighbouring Serbia and Romania.

The leftwing opposition and anti-fascist campaigners both chastised the government for taking 253 days to arrest a man they said should never have “slipped through the fingers of the police” in the first place.

Pappas’s lawyer Pericles Stavrianakis said that while he believed his client had been hiding in Athens he had been told he was only visiting the apartment and had not been hiding there.

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