ATHENS – While his former colleagues turned themselves in or were arrested after being convicted of running a criminal gang, Golden Dawn former lawmaker Christos Pappas couldn't be found and was evading arrest.
Under Greek law they didn't have to be in court although they had been convicted and sentenced, and police reportedly had said they knew the whereabouts of the 18 ex-members of parliament, including Pappas.
Pappas was the second-in-command of the neo-Nazi party to leader Nikos Michaloliakos.
Police said they raided houses in Athens and Ioannina in northwestern Greece trying to find him after an Athens court rejected a prosecutor’s call for the leadership of Golden Dawn, and dozens of its members, to have their prison sentences suspended.
The newspaper Kathimerini, citing unnamed sources, said Pappas apparently disappeared on Oct. 7 when the appeals court announced its verdict with no explanation why it wasn't revealed until the court ordered them jailed.
Pappas’ lawyer Pericles Stavrianakis said his client “made a conscious decision” to not turn himself in to the authorities without explaining why, the law not requiring him to be in court opening the door for him to escape.
The former hierarchy of the party will be quarantined for 14 day because of the COVID-19 before heading to jail on sentences up to 13 ½ years although it's common in Greece for early releases, even for violent crimes.
Thursday’s court decision capped a marathon five-year politically charged trial involving 68 defendants and dozens of lawyers. It encompassed four cases: the 2013 fatal stabbing of left-wing Greek rap singer Pavlos Fyssas, physical attacks on Egyptian fishermen and left-wing activists, and whether Golden Dawn was operating as a criminal organization.
A total of 57 party members and associates were convicted on Oct. 7, mostly for involvement in violent attacks and participating in a criminal organization. Of those, the panel of three judges rejected appeals for suspended sentences for 39.
Golden Dawn was founded as a neo-Nazi group in the 1980s and remained a fringe group until it rose to prominence during the country’s 2010-2018 financial crisis. Running on a nationalist, populist platform, it won parliamentary seats in four separate elections and became Greece’s third-largest political party. It has been blamed for multiple hate crimes, including brutal street attacks on immigrants and left-wing activists.