Christos Pappas was a Member of the Greek Parliament and the reported deputy leader of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party.Greece Releases Golden Dawn Leader Nikos Michaloliakos From Jail, Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/greece-to-release-golden-dawn-leader-nikos-michaloliakos-from-jail-1426866104. On October 7, 2020, Pappas, along with other senior members of Golden Dawn, were found guilty of running a criminal organization.Niki Kitsantonis and Iliana Magra, “Golden Dawn Found Guilty of Running Criminal Organization in Greece,” New York Times, October 7, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/07/world/europe/golden-dawn-guilty-verdict-greece.html.
Pappas, the son of a military officer and a close associate to former dictator Georgios Papadopoulos, was allegedly recorded on tape teaching a group of children to chant “Heil Hitler.”Helena Smith, “Greece puts faith in judges to heal wounds inflicted by Golden Dawn,” October 3, 2020, Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/global/2020/oct/03/greece-puts-faith-in-judges-to-heal-wounds-inflicted-by-golden-dawn. The video is one of four that Greek prosecutors have reportedly included in the case against him and other Golden Dawn members who faced charges of forming and directing a criminal organization.“Video shows Golden Dawn No 2 teaching children to chant ‘Heil Hitler!’,” Hope not Hate, September 23, 2014, http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/news/world/article/2134/video-shows-golden-dawn-no-2-teaching-children-to-chant-heil-hitler.
Following the arrests of Golden Dawn’s leadership on September 28, 2013 on charges of running a criminal organization, Pappas surrendered himself to Greek authorities the next day as he claimed he had “nothing to hide, nothing to fear.”Helena Smith, “Golden Dawn MP Christos Pappas surrenders to Greek police,” Guardian, September 29, 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/29/golden-dawn-mp-christos-pappas-greek-police. In October 2014, Golden Dawn leadership was required to face criminal trial.Helena Smith, “Greek prosecutor orders all Golden Dawn MPs to face criminal trial,” Guardian, October 16, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/16/greece-golden-dawn-mps-tried-criminal-offences. The order stated that over 50 leading Golden Dawn members should be tried for using the far-right group as a political front to pursue various illegal activities. In the past, Golden Dawn members have been accused of weapons offences, homicide, as well as attacks on immigrants, left-wing activities, and gay people.Helena Smith, “Greek prosecutor orders all Golden Dawn MPs to face criminal trial,” Guardian, October 16, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/16/greece-golden-dawn-mps-tried-criminal-offences.
Despite being in custody, Pappas was re-elected to the Greek Parliament on January 25, 2015.“Leaders of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn party to stand trial on April 20,” Reuters, March 9, 2015, http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/09/us-greece-politics-goldendawn-idUSKBN0M51MG20150309. Pappas was conditionally released from prison on March 29, 2015 after completing the 18-month maximum pre-trial detention dictated by Greek law.“Golden Dawn's No. 2 Pappas to get conditional release on March 29,” Ekathimerini, March 13, 2015, https://www.ekathimerini.com/168201/article/ekathimerini/news/golden-dawns-no-2-pappas-to-get-conditional-release-on-march-29. As part of the terms for his release, Pappas was prohibited from leaving the region of Attica and was obliged to hand over his passport to authorities.“Greece Releases Golden Dawn Leader Nikos Michaloliakos From Jail,” Wall Street Journal, March 20, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/greece-to-release-golden-dawn-leader-nikos-michaloliakos-from-jail-1426866104; “Golden Dawn deputy Christos Pappas released from prison,” Times of Change, March 29, 2015, http://www.thetoc.gr/eng/politics/article/golden-dawn-deputy-christos-pappas-released-from-prison.
On October 7, 2020, the Athens Appeals Court found Golden Dawn guilty of running a criminal organization. More than 68 defendants, including the entire group’s leadership, faced charges of operating a criminal organization while posing as a political group, attempted murder, possession of weapons, and employing violence to remove political rivals, migrants, and communists. The senior members of the organization, including Pappas, faced sentences of five to 15 years in prison.Niki Kitsantonis and Iliana Magra, “Golden Dawn Found Guilty of Running Criminal Organization in Greece,” New York Times, October 7, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/07/world/europe/golden-dawn-guilty-verdict-greece.html; Tim Hume, “Greece’s Neo-Nazi Golden Dawn Party Have Been Ruled a Criminal Organisation,” Vice News, October 7, 2020, https://www.vice.com/en/article/n7wax7/greece-neo-nazi-golden-dawn-party-criminal-organisation; Angeliki Koutantou and Karolina Tagaris, “Leader of Greece's far-right Golden Dawn held in custody before trial,” Reuters, October 3, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/10/03/us-greece-goldendawn-leader-idUSBRE9920ZF20131003. On October 14, 2020, the three-member panel of judges sentenced Pappas, alongside the rest of Golden Dawn’s leadership, to a 13-year prison sentence.Paul Antonopoulos, “Golden Dawn Leaders Receive Up to 13 Years in Prison,” Greek City Times, October 14, 2020, https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/10/14/golden-dawn-leaders-receive-up-to-13-years-in-prison/.
However, Pappas went missing on October 23, the day that he was supposed to begin his prison sentence.Helena Smith, “'It’s Incredible': Why Do Two Convicted Greek Neo-Nazis Remain at Large?” Guardian, January 11, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jan/11/its-incredible-why-do-two-convicted-greek-neo-nazis-golden-dawn-remain-at-large; “Golden Dawn's Pappas on the Run as Colleagues Start Jail Terms,” BBC News, October 23, 2020, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-54657540. In a plan that police officials described as well-organized, Pappas left his cell phone at home and disappeared.Philip Chrysopoulos, “Greek neo-Nazi Still At Large Three Months After Conviction for Fyssas Murder,” Greek Reporter, January 5, 2021, https://greece.greekreporter.com/2021/01/05/greek-neo-nazi-still-at-large-three-months-after-conviction/. His attorney stated that “he [Pappas] is disappointed…he is not going to give himself up,” and that Pappas made a “conscious decision” to flee because he believed his conviction would be overturned. Greek police launched a manhunt for the fugitive, searching three locations in Athens and the town of Ioannina, as well as Belgium, France, and Austria.Helena Smith, “Golden Dawn Deputy Leader Evades Arrest After Jail Sentence,” Guardian, October 23, 2020, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/oct/23/golden-dawn-deputy-leader-christos-pappas-evades-arrest-after-jail-sentence; Philip Chrysopoulos, “Greek neo-Nazi Still At Large Three Months After Conviction for Fyssas Murder,” Greek Reporter, January 5, 2021, https://greece.greekreporter.com/2021/01/05/greek-neo-nazi-still-at-large-three-months-after-conviction/.