Greece’s conservative government was rocked Friday by a lingering surveillance scandal after the intelligence chief and close aide to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis resigned within an hour. Panagiotis Kontoleon has offered to resign due to “errors” by management during his time in the role, Mitsotakis’ office said in a statement.
The announcement that Kontoleon had resigned as head of the national intelligence agency EYP came less than an hour after the secretary general of the prime minister’s office, Grigoris Dimitriadis, also resigned.
The resignation comes a week after the leader of the country’s Socialist opposition party, Nikos Androulakis, filed a complaint with the high court about “attempting” to track his cell phone. Carnivores malware.
Two Greek journalists also took legal action this year after they claimed to be victims of monitoring.
Androulakis on Friday called on parliament to conduct a special investigation into the incident.
“I never expected the Greek government to spy on me using the darkest of activities,” he said.
The government has consistently denied any state involvement, saying it does not buy such software, but the goods have sparked an outcry in the country.
Government spokesman Yiannis Economou said it was “justifiable” for individuals to use Predator for surveillance and that Europe as a whole faced surveillance threats.
In November, Greek Foreign Minister George Gerapet Vim confirmed to AFP that the state “does not monitor journalists in Greece”.
“Greece fully adheres to the values of a democratic society and the rule of law, especially pluralism and freedom of the press,” said Gerapet Vim.
Therefore, he argued that “no further action is needed” to verify the alleged surveillance of investigative journalist Stavros Malichudis.
Kontoleon, who was appointed head of the EYP in 2019 after Mitsotakis’ conservative party seized power that year, implied that in that role that journalists were being targeted at the behest of the authorities. foreign intelligence agencies.
Investigative websites Reporters United and Inside Story have accused Dimitriadis – a nephew of Mitsotakis – of being involved in an espionage scandal involving Androulakis and Greek financial journalist Thanasis Koukakis.
Dimitriadis on Friday threatened to sue Reporters United and the left-wing daily Efsyn unless they retract their story on the case. Koukakis was also warned against telling the story.
In one of his first acts when he came to power in 2019, Mitsotakis raised eyebrows when he attached the national intelligence agency to his office.
The main opposition party, leftist Syriza, called the incident “a major scandal”. Its leader, former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, said Dimitriadis’s resignation was “an admission of guilt” and that Mitsotakis himself bears part of the blame.
Tsipras said: “Mitsotakis has to give an explanation to the Greek people about Watergate.
A backward reality, Orwellian
Experts note that Predator, originally developed in North Macedonia and later in Israel, can access both messages and chats.
“A few days ago, I was informed by the European Parliament that there was an attempt to corrupt my mobile phone with the Predator surveillance software,” Androulakis told the media as he left court in Athens on July 26. .
He added: “Finding out who is behind these harmful activities is not a personal matter but a democratic obligation.
The European Parliament has set up a special service for MEPs to check their phones for illegal surveillance software following hacks using spyware similar to Predator called Pegasus. .
Androulakis used the service to “check my phone on June 28, 2022”.
“From the first inspection, a suspicious link to the Predator monitoring tool was discovered,” his party PASOK said in a statement.
This software can infiltrate cell phones to extract data or activate cameras or microphones to spy on their owners.
Cybersecurity expert Anastasios Arampatzis told AFP: “Predator is one of the most expensive spyware and is beyond the reach of individuals”, adding that only a country needs security features. its complexity.
“Security and protection of one’s private life must be guaranteed by any democracy. If a state spy on its citizens, we are moving towards an outdated, Orwellian reality. “
Spain’s intelligence chief was sacked earlier this year after it emerged that top politicians – including Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Catalan separatists – had been targeted. targeted by phone hacking.