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Greek government shrugs off wiretap scandal vote

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The censure motion was defeated by 156 votes to 143 in the 300-seat chamber./AFP
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Jan 28, 2023 - 03:05 AM

ATHENS, GREECE — Greece’s government on Friday easily survived a no-confidence vote called by the opposition over a long-running wiretap scandal in which top officials were targeted by state intelligence for months.

The censure motion was defeated by 156 votes to 143 in the 300-seat chamber, parliament vice chairman Haralambos Athanassiou said.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had welcomed the vote as an opportunity to promote his government’s record ahead of elections in spring.

Leftist former premier Alexis Tsipras called for the no-confidence vote on Wednesday, branding Mitsotakis the “mastermind and leader” behind a “criminal network” that had wiretapped officials’ phones.

He identified Greece’s former energy minister, army chief and former national security adviser as being among the officials.

Tsipras said the chairman of the Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE), Christos Rammos, had informed him the officials had been under surveillance by state intelligence agency EYP.

Tsipras said Mitsotakis, whose office has oversight over EYP, had “consciously lied” for six months and had “thrown the entire weight of his authority” behind preventing the truth from coming out.

Monitoring ‘was legal’ 

But Mitsotakis insisted the wiretaps had been approved by a prosecutor at EYP and were thus legal.

“The (monitoring) was legal, we need to clarify this,” the prime minister said.

“This case is under investigation in depth… everything will come to light in the end,” he said.

The government has accused Tsipras of seeking to weaponise the ADAE, noting that Rammos was appointed to the post by Tsipras’s leftist government just before elections in 2019.

The scandal broke in July when Nikos Androulakis, MEP and leader of the Greek socialist party (Pasok-Kinal), took legal action against an attempt to infiltrate his mobile phone using spyware known as Predator.

After the revelation, Mitsotakis admitted that state intelligence had also monitored Androulakis, without disclosing the reason, but denied that authorities had used the Predator malware.

The government has also strongly denied  reports that dozens of prominent Greeks were under surveillance via Predator, including former premier Antonis Samaras, several serving cabinet ministers, military chiefs, media owners and journalists.

Mitsotakis has called the reports “conspiracy theories” and “fairy tales… without a shred of evidence”.

In August, the Greek intelligence service chief, as well as a close aide and nephew to the prime minister, both resigned over the socialist leader’s surveillance.

The use of spyware, which many governments and law enforcement agencies argue is necessary to fight crime and terrorism, has become controversial over concerns the technology could be used against political opponents.

Tsipras on Friday said the government had “destroyed” evidence, “threatened” journalists investigating the scandal and “trampled” on the constitution and rule of law.


“You ordered these wiretaps,” Tsipras said, calling Mitsotakis “ruthless” and “a threat” to the country.

Mitsotakis replied that Tsipras was “frustrated” because his party was lagging in opinion polls.

Tsipras’ leftist Syriza party has narrowed the gap to single digits in past months, with the latest surveys giving the ruling New Democracy conservatives a lead of at least six percentage points.

But Mitsotakis is steadily seen as a more competent PM. In one poll this month, more than one in three respondents said he deserved a second term.

The election is on a knife-edge as it will be held under proportional representation with no party likely to secure an outright majority of 151 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament.

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