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Golden Dawn: Police search for far-right party member evading prison sentence

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Christos Pappas was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Thursday for participating in a "criminal organisation".
Christos Pappas was sentenced to 13 years in prison on Thursday for participating in a "criminal organisation".   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
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Greek authorities are searching for a leading member of the far-right Golden Dawn party after he failed to turn himself in following his conviction.

Christos Pappas was one of 39 people, including 13 former lawmakers, who were sentenced to prison terms on Thursday for running the neo-Nazi party as a criminal organisation.

But police said they officially considered Pappas a fugitive on Friday and issued an arrest warrant for him.

Of the individuals convicted, 37 are being held in custody after turning themselves in following the court order on Thursday.

They are expected to be transferred to prisons across the country.

But Pappas' lawyer, Periklis Stavrianakis, told Greek state broadcaster ERT that his client was not surrendering as he believed his conviction would be quashed on appeal and his prison sentence overturned.

Athens' Criminal Court sentenced Pappas to 13 years in prison and appeals processes in Greece can take several years.

Security forces have carried out two unsuccessful searches in houses with connections to Pappas.

Pappas had previously fled from authorities in 2013 when the leaders of the party were arrested following Fyssas' murder.

What about the other members of Golden Dawn?

Former Golden Dawn lawmaker Ioannis Lagos, who faces five to 15 years in prison, is currently a European parliament member, which means he has parliamentary immunity.

Lagos was the only former lawmaker who did not appeal for a suspended sentence, but fellow MEPs have called for him to be "excluded from all democratic processes" in the European Parliament.

Leader of the Golden Dawn party, Giorgos Roupakias, was sentenced to 13 years in jail on Wednesday, in addition to a life sentence for the murder of an anti-fascist campaigner Pavlos Fyssas in 2013.

Thursday's court decision capped a marathon five-year politically charged trial, which began in 2015 and led to the fall of the neo-Nazi party.

A total of 57 party members and associates were convicted on October 7, most for involvement in violent attacks and participating in a criminal organisation.

Golden Dawn had risen to prominence during Greece's financial crisis but did not win any seats in last year's parliamentary elections.