Greece’s opposition parties rail at Mitsotakis over ‘Greek Watergate’ inquiry
Syriza charges ruling party with ‘trying to impose an omertà’ in the spying scandal as government blocks key witnesses.
Greece’s opposition parties are railing against the conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the inquiry into a wiretapping scandal dubbed “Greek Watergate.”
At a parliamentary session on Thursday investigating the spy scandal, opposition parties stormed out in protest, after the ruling New Democracy party blocked any political figures from being called to testify, including those directly involved.
The scandal broke last month when the government’s Secretary-General Grigoris Dimitriadis (who is the prime minister’s nephew) and the head of the National Intelligence Service (EYP) lost their jobs, after it transpired that the phone of Nikos Androulakis, head of the center-left Pasok party, had been surveilled by EYP. A separate attempt was made to tap his phone around the same time with illegal software called Predator, but Athens strenuously denies that EYP had any connection with that.
The Mitsotakis government has admitted it acted wrongly and promised to investigate the case.
Thursday’s parliamentary committee hearing in Athens was convened to form a list of people that will be summoned to testify. But New Democracy, which holds the majority in the panel, blocked dozens of witnesses proposed by opposition parties, including Dimitriadis and Mitsotakis, who is in charge of the EYP.
“Mitsotakis is trying to impose an omertà so that other aspects of his parallel state are not revealed,” main opposition party Syriza said in a statement.
New Democracy also blocked from the list of witnesses journalists whose phones have been wiretapped, or have investigated the issue, as well as state officials from police and the Greek secret service. In the end, fewer than 10 people will be summoned.
“The one who advocated light has imposed darkness,” Pasok said in a statement. “Mitsotakis has staged a theatrical performance in order to hide himself and his nephew and to obscure his parallel state actions.”
According to a report in the Greek newspaper Ta Nea, surveillance evidence in the cases of Androulakis and of journalist Thanasis Koukakis has been destroyed due to technical factors. Such files are usually stored by the spy services for two years.
“The case is in the hands of justice and parliamentary institutions,” government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou said at a briefing on Thursday. “I don’t know if it has been destroyed or not. Those who are competent by law and implement the protocols in place know.”
At the European Parliament in Brussels, meanwhile, the assembly’s spyware inquiry committee, known as PEGA, on Thursday held an exchange of views on the use of spyware in Greece. The panel heard from, among others, three journalists involved in uncovering the scandal and who have themselves been surveilled.
MEP Stelios Kouloglou from the Left group contrasted the investigation in Athens with the inquiry being carried out by the European Parliament.
“The transparency and the search for the truth from the PEGA committee is in contrast to the violent cover up efforts of the relevant inquiry committee of the Greek Parliament,” Kouloglou said. “MEPs got a taste of the deep state that Mitsotakis has established. “
But government officials who testified in the PEGA committee on Thursday, refrained from shedding more light, referring to the Greek judicial authorities.
MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld called the panel a “Computer-says-No” sketch. “Hardly any answers, cos ‘not within our power,’ ‘no comment on matters sub judice,’ ‘national security therefore top secret,’ she said in a tweet.
The Greek government refused to give a specific answer on whether there is a judicial investigation on the wiretapping scandal, rather than just on how the story was leaked to media. They said however that the Greek government stands ready to work with the European authorities to investigate the issue.