'Mitsotakis tried to undermine Greek opposition by illegal surveillance': Wiretapped EU lawmaker

Tue, 13 Sep 2022 4:56 GMT
EU lawmakers call for action to protect citizens, democracy at debate dedicated to Greek scandal.
'Mitsotakis tried to undermine Greek opposition by illegal surveillance': Wiretapped EU lawmaker

The Greek government tried to undermine the autonomy of the political opposition through illegal wiretaps, EU lawmaker Nikos Androulakis said on Monday.

“They were targeting the autonomy of the opposition,” Androulakis, the leader of PASOK, Greece’s largest opposition party, said at a debate over the Greek surveillance scandal at the European Parliament (EP) in Strasbourg, France.

The scandal, which has seriously shaken Greek politics, broke out after EP cybersecurity experts found Israeli-made Predator malware on his phone.

He explained that his phone was wiretapped in the runup to his party’s leadership elections.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis called him the day before the EP debate, Androulakis said, to ask him to seek more information at the National Intelligence Service (EYP) because “something has happened” to his files.

“They were destroyed the day I lodged my complaint,” Androulakis asserted.

“The prime minister, who is responsible for this situation, should reveal the reasons why we had wiretapping instead of creating a toxic environment,” Androulakis added, stressing that his motivation to reveal the truth “is about transparency and democracy, it is not personal.”

EU institutions fail to act

“The European Commission condemns any illegal access to communication systems,” said EU Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders, reiterating the EU executive body’s position at the debate.

He underlined that EU countries are responsible for supervising their security services and investigating alleged breaches of EU data protection and fundamental rights.

For his part, Jeroen Lenaers, chair of the EP’s PEGA committee (Committee of Inquiry to investigate the use of Pegasus and equivalent surveillance spyware) probing the illegal use of spyware by EU member states, said: “Illegal surveillance of (EP) members’ communications is unacceptable.”

EU lawmaker Sophie in’t Veld, who is currently drawing up a report on EU-wide surveillance cases, accused national authorities of “being perpetrators” and “breaking democracy.”

“National governments are spying on citizens for political reasons, it has no place in a democracy,” she said, voicing criticism of the two other main institutions which represent member states, the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, for failing to act against the breach of human rights and EU law.

In’t Veld urged the two institutions and Europol, the bloc’s law enforcement cooperation agency, to “do their job, not to protect the governments, but to protect the European citizens.”

State use of spyware against journalists and opposition figures has been reported in Hungary, Poland, and Spain as well.

Greek surveillance scandal

The scandal erupted in July when EYP head Andreas Kontoleon admitted to a parliamentary committee that his agency had been spying on journalist Thanasis Koukakis.

The parliamentary probe was launched after Androulakis complained to top prosecutors about an attempt to hack his cellphone with Predator tracking software.

Following the resignation of the spy chief and the prime minister's general secretary, Mitsotakis acknowledged that Androulakis had been wiretapped but denied he knew about the surveillance.


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