Another Greek opposition lawmaker victim of Predator

Christos Spirtzis, former minister and lawmaker for the main opposition leftist Syriza party, was informed that his phone has been hacked by Predator and is now informing the country’s chief prosecutor. [EPA/ALEXANDROS VLACHOS]

The Greek wiretapping affair involving the “Predator” spy programme is widening as a leftist opposition lawmaker told the prosecutor on Friday (9 September) that his phone was also compromised.

Christos Spirtzis, former minister and lawmaker for the main opposition leftist Syriza party, was informed that his phone had been hacked by Predator, and he has now reported it to the chief prosecutor.

The list of those targeted by the software also includes socialist leader and MEP Nikos Androulakis and investigative journalists, such as Thanasis Koukakis.

EU Commission alarmed by new spyware case against Greek socialist leader

A new case of attempted bugging of Greek socialist opposition leader’s mobile phone with a spyware surveillance software has raised eyebrows in Brussels with a European Commission spokesperson saying that such practices are “unacceptable” if confirmed.

Since the scandal erupted, the conservative New Democracy government has said it did not purchase Predator but has admitted that secret services were “legally” spying on the socialist leader.

However, the government has so far refused to reveal the reasons behind the surveillance invoking “national security”, while Prime Kyriakos Minister Mitsotakis has said he was unaware of the socialist leader’s surveillance.

A parliamentary inquiry committee set up to investigate the scandal has not brought any results considering that the former secret services chief and the prime minister’s secretary general, who both resigned after the scandal, refused to explain the reasons for spying on the Greek opposition leader.

Main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras warned on Thursday that those who invoke “confidentiality” to cover up crimes “face criminal charges”.

The case has caused a political earthquake in Athens, dealing a severe blow to Mitsotakis’ “reformist” profile.

The issue was also discussed at the PEGA committee at the European Parliament on Thursday, but Greek government officials did not provide clear answers.

“I don’t know if the discussion today is as transparent as we would like. This is about European democracy. The question marks are very heavy. It’s about corruption, about freedom of the country, about elections and about democracy,” said MEP Róża Thun Und Hohenstein from Renew Europe.

Mitsotakis controls the secret services

Speaking to EURACTIV’s “Beyond the byline” podcast, leftist MEP Stelios Kouloglou said the first move Mitsotakis made when he took over the power was to pass a law bringing the secret services under his personal supervision.

“Up to that moment, the control of secret services was part of the ministry of interior. But then he changed the law, and he only changed to nominate as the chief of the national secret services a person who had not the necessary qualifications,” Kouloglou said.

“Nobody believes Mitsotakis that he was not aware,” Kouloglou added.

Koukakis, an investigative journalist whose phone was also bugged with Predator, told EURACTIV that he was investigating financial crime cases when he was under surveillance.

“The reporting was related to how the amendment of the penal code led to the halting of the prosecutions and trials of who were involved in scandals. How it was made easier for financial criminals to recover assets that had been frozen for money laundry,” he said.

“These were the topics that we were investigating during the time of my first and second surveillance, from June 2020 to September 2021”, he added.

“What is important to stress is that my case exposes how fragile the defence of civil rights in a European democracy can become. And how easily, thanks to all these hyper sophisticated spyware, governments and other parties can breach those rights,” he concluded.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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