Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis reiterated on Friday that the “legal surveillance” of MEP and leader of socialist opposition party PASOK/KINAL Nikos Androulakis by the National Intelligence Service EYP was “a mistake.” Speaking at the Parliament debate on the wiretapping scandal, the PM added, however, that EYP’s operation is essential to the country’s security.
“Nothing must bring into question this valuable branch of the state,” Mitsotakis stressed.
Parliament returned early from its summer break for the debate, called by the main opposition SYRIZA party after revelations that Nikos Androulakis, head of Greece’s third-largest political party, was put under surveillance for three months last year when he was running for his PASOK party’s leadership, and that a financial journalist was also under surveillance.
Mitsotakis, who faces re-election next year, has insisted he was unaware of what he has called the legal wiretapping of Androulakis, but that he would not have approved it had he known. Greece’s National Intelligence Service reports directly to the prime minister’s office.
“When I was informed of it, I didn’t hesitate to say that it was wrong,” Mitsotakis said during his opening parliamentary speech Thursday. He has not revealed the reasons for Androulakis being under surveillance, citing national security concerns, but insisted the wiretap was legal and called on Androulakis to take the issue to Greek or European courts if he disagreed.
SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras slammed Mitsotakis’ handling of the issue, accusing him of criminal behavior in bugging an opposition politician’s phone without citing a reason, and calling on him to resign.
“You are legally, politically but primarily morally obliged to … state why you were surveilling the then-European MP and now head of the third largest party in Greece,” Tsipras said. “Give an answer. You are obliged to give an answer. What was this national reason? Is he an agent of foreign interests? … Is he dangerous to national security?”
Unable to hold a speech at the political parties leaders’ debate in Parliament due to his MEP status, Androulakis was represented by PASOK MP Michalis Katrinis, the head of the party’s parliamentary group.
“The government is heavily exposed by the wiretapping scandal. You did everything you could to downplay the fact of the surveillance,” Katrinis said addressing the PM and saying that the surveillance of Androulakis and of journalist Koukakis are not “the only ones.”
“We ask ourselves: What does all this have to do with democracy? The actions of the government and the EYP constitute an institutional deviation,” the PASOK MP said accusing the PM that he was not interested in find out who else among politicians and personalities of the public law were being monitored.
Speaking about “the essence of the case” as he said, Katrinis asked about the reasons Androulakis was under surveillance.
“Will you tell us if you consider him a national security risk? Because you don’t do it, you resort to arguments that the leader of PASOK comes here and be informed.”
Katrinis then said that “we submit a request to provide the complete file with all the elements that caused the surveillance of Androulakis.”
Secretary General of Communist KKE, Dimitris Koutsoumpas reiterated the party’s KKE for examination of all specific surveillance complaints by the Investigative Committee, including those by KEE.
Koutsoumpas said that “the headquarters of the Central Committee of KKE have been under surveillance from 2016 until today.”
He underlined that “for six years and with two governments, there has been no response to the repeated complaints of the KKE.” He noted “the long delay in the investigations, the attempt to shelve the case, but also the many reasonable questions that have arisen for investigations and audits by the Anti-Corruption Commission while the case is still being investigated and new critical information is emerging.”
KKE members have been under surveillance since the telegraph was invented,” Koutsoumpas underlined.
Leader of MeRA25 Yanis Varoufakis said that “his own phone bugged in 2015, however, by the NSA.”
He stated that he will support PASOK’s proposal for the establishment of am Inquiry Committee – which will be discussed next Monday in the Plenary – on the condition that inbestigation will be expanded also to previous monitoring.
Varoufakis accused Kyriakos Mitsotakis of not giving any answer to the serious and critical questions arising from the revelations about the illegal surveillance of politicians and journalists.
Leader of nationalist Elliniki Lysi (Greek Solution), Kyriakos Velopoulos accused all three parties, ND, PASOK and SYRIZA, of “turning EYP into a tool to surveil their political opponents.
Referring to the recent statements of the new appointed EYP chief during the hearing at a committee to approve his appointment by the PM, Velopoulos said “This what EYP chief said that all are being surveilled, means that Democracy is over.”
The scandal has already led to the resignation of the head of EYP, Panagiotis Kontoleon, and the general secretary of the prime minister’s office, Grigoris Dimitriadis.
The three-month wiretap of Androulakis’ phone from September 2021 was uncovered after Androulakis, as a European Parliament member, was informed by the European Parliament’s cybersecurity service that had had been the target of a bugging attempt by Predator spyware.
In April, Greek financial journalist Thanassis Koukakis said he had been notified by digital rights group Citizen Lab that his phone had been the target of surveillance by Predator software from July to September 2021.
The government insists it has not used Predator, but has admitted Androulakis’ phone was separately under surveillance by the intelligence service.
Androulakis filed a complaint with prosecutors at Greece’s Supreme Court on July 26 over the Predator spyware, and has demanded to know the reasons for the intelligence service surveillance, noted AssociatedPress.
Other sources: Live debate on Parliament TV
More on the wiretapping scandal here.
PS The debate continues still at 6 p.m. Friday, and so far the Prime Minister has not given any answers to the crucial questions. He only challenged Tsipras to submit a vote of confidence motion…
Interesting: former ND PMs Costas Karamanlis and Antonis Samaras were not present at the debate. FM Nikos Dendias, an aspiring candidate for ND’s leadership, was abroad on a scheduled visit.
Why not performing an exorcism in parliament?