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Member of Greece’s Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Arrested After 9 Months on the Run

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ATHENS — Greek authorities have arrested a convicted member of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party after nine months on the run, a government minister said on Friday.

Christos Pappas, the party’s deputy leader, was taken into custody late Thursday in Athens. He is among six former lawmakers sentenced to 13 years in prison after a landmark trial in October that found that Golden Dawn had operated as a criminal organization, systematically carrying out violent attacks on leftist critics and migrants.

He absconded shortly before the sentences were announced in mid-October, but will now join the rest of the organization’s leadership in prison.

Golden Dawn’s decline was as dramatic as its rise, prompted by the murder of the leftist musician Pavlos Fyssas in 2013 by one of its members, Giorgos Roupakias. The murder led to the arrest of the party leadership and a five-year trial that put most of its politicians and dozens of its supporters in jail.

Starting as an obscure far-right group in the 1980s, Golden Dawn was catapulted into mainstream Greek politics a decade ago after tapping into public discontent against austerity measures imposed by Greece’s international creditors and a growing influx of migrants.

It styled itself as a patriotic, anti-establishment party and gained a strong foothold in Parliament from 2012 to 2019, becoming the third-largest party at its prime.

However, Golden Dawn discreetly maintained links with extreme-right parties in Europe and the United States, even as its members played down the party’s penchant for neo-Nazi symbols and paraphernalia. Mr. Pappas, for example, described photographs of himself performing the Nazi salute (one with his young son) as “kidding around.”

Initially, the police had suspected that Mr. Pappas, 59, might have fled abroad, and an international arrest warrant was issued this January. However, it turned out that he was much closer to home: The police said late Thursday that officers had traced him to an apartment near central Athens, and arrested him along with a 52-year-old woman.

There was little detail immediately available about the fugitive neo-Nazi’s life on the run. Speaking by phone on Friday ahead of Mr. Pappas’s scheduled transfer to the Domokos high-security prison in central Greece, his lawyer, Pericles Stavrianakis, said his client had told him that he was “just passing by” the apartment where he was caught and that he had not traveled abroad during the past nine months.

Mr. Pappas was one of two prominent Golden Dawn members who evaded prison after their conviction. The second was Ioannis Lagos, a member of the European Parliament who had taken advantage of his immunity to evade his sentence until fellow European lawmakers revoked it. That led to his extradition to Greece in May.

Greece’s center-right government on Friday welcomed the arrest of Mr. Pappas as the final chapter in the tumultuous history of the party, which closed its headquarters in the fall of 2019 after failing to re-enter Greece’s Parliament.

Although less extreme right-wing parties have sprung up in Golden Dawn’s wake, they are much smaller and have not been linked to violence.

“Greek democracy fought and eliminated the toxic poison of Golden Dawn,” Aristotelia Peloni, a government spokeswoman, said in a statement. “With the arrest of Christos Pappas, the chapter of this criminal organization is definitively closed.”


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