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Greece: Far-right Golden Dawn's number two figure Christos Pappas due in court after arrest

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By Euronews with AFP, AP
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Golden Dawn's Christos Pappas shows a copy of his party magazine as he speaks to lawmakers during his time as a member of the Greek parliament, Athens, June 4, 2014.
Golden Dawn's Christos Pappas shows a copy of his party magazine as he speaks to lawmakers during his time as a member of the Greek parliament, Athens, June 4, 2014.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis
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A leading member of Greece’s extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party was due in court on Friday after being arrested in Athens, nearly nine months after he disappeared before a court sentenced him to 13 years in prison.

Police said 59-year-old former lawmaker Christos Pappas, number two in the neo-Nazi party, was detained late on Thursday. He had been living in an apartment registered under a different name.

Around 50 former Golden Dawn lawmakers and senior party officials were convicted at the end of a marathon five-and-a-half year trial in October. They had been prosecuted for building a criminal organisation, murders and also for illegally possessing weapons.

Christos Pappas, 59, had been released from pre-trial custody after the maximum 18-month period for which he could be held expired. He absconded shortly before the court verdict.

He was picked up in a residential building in the Zografou suburb of the Greek capital, where police believe he may have been given shelter by a woman who was also arrested, a police source told AFP.

Considered to be one of Golden Dawn's main ideologues, Pappas is due to appear before a prosecutor on Friday, according to a police statement.

The former furniture store owner, whose father helped Georgios Papadopoulos establish a dictatorship in Greece in 1967, is an admirer of Benito Mussolini, who founded and built Italy's fascist regime in the inter-war period.

Pappas was one of the last remaining Golden Dawn leaders to escape justice, following the extradition from Belgium of the MEP Ioannis Lagos in May. Stripped of his immunity by the European Parliament, Lagos had already been sentenced in Greece to 13 years in jail.

Pappas avoided arrest in 2013 after other party leaders killed the anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, a crime which brought about the neo-Nazi group's downfall and the arrest of several of its leaders.

The subsequent trial of dozens of party figures, which began in 2015, was described as one of the most significant events in Greek political history.

Golden Dawn was founded as a Nazi-inspired organization in the 1980s. A fringe group for years, it saw a surge in popularity during a 2010-2018 financial crisis that caused hardship for millions of Greeks.

It won seats in parliament amid widespread disillusionment with Greece's traditional parties, New Democracy on the right and Pasok on the left.

But its failure at the last parliamentary elections in 2019, as well as last October's conviction of its leaders, brought about its collapse and the loss of most of its voting base.