‘The Lives of Others, the Greek way
This is our weekly round-up from Greece.
Greece is experiencing a political earthquake since a Documento bombshell report last week claimed there were 33 high-profile victims of the illegal Pegasus spyware, with another report later raising the number to 106.
Greek oligarch Marinakis, closely affiliated with ND, appeared to be indirectly on the list. His aide and his newspapers have unleashed an unprecedented attack against the government since then.
Finally, grave victims of Greek police lawlessness -whom even top government officials had slandered- finally found some justice in a court’s decision.
An ever-growing list
While you were receiving our newsletter last week, a bombshell report broke out: Documento editor Kostas Vaxevanis published a list of 33 people (Opens in a new window) allegedly wiretapped with illegal Predator spyware. The list included ND cabinet ministers and their spouses, ex-ministers, a former ND Prime Minister, high-ranking government officials, former SYRIZA ministers, journalists, editors, an actor and director, businessmen, and a football club head.
Very importantly, Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias was included in the list.
Documento, politically affiliated with the main opposition Syriza, said their ‘deep throats’ were 'two people with key roles in the surveillance' and claimed illegal software was also used to tap mobile phones.
Illegal software known as Predator was used in collaboration with the technology employed by Greece's state intelligence agency EYP, the newspaper added.
As Politico noted (Opens in a new window), it is not clear whether all the people allegedly targeted have indeed clicked on the malicious link, effectively having their devices to be eventually infected. Most of the officials contacted by the newspaper said they were not aware that they were targeted or wouldn’t comment.
'The evidence is missing,' said government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou, who nonetheless called on judicial authorities to investigate what the newspaper has reported.
Employing the government’s usual rhetoric ‘those who criticize us are our homeland’s enemies,’ Oikonomou accused (Opens in a new window) Documento of attempting to strike a blow against the government and undermine stability.
Oikonomou reiterated that 'surveillance software exists in Greece as in the rest of Europe, but no (Greek) public authority has purchased or uses it.'
It was just the previous day that the European Parliament committee PEGA investigating wiretaps in Greece and other EU states called for a deeper investigation of the case.
Documento was explicit as to who they think is behind the surveillance: ‘Those spied upon by the Mitsotakis system,’ they wrote.
“The government will proceed with the universal ban on the purchase [of spyware], a move that will make Greece the first country in Europe to ban the circulation of malicious software in its territory,” Oikonomou had said (Opens in a new window) in the statement.
PEGA Committee’s In ‘t Veld had pointed to the fact that the use of this spyware is already illegal in Greece, so it would be more important to focus on the implementation of the legal framework.
A couple of days after the report, a pre-recorded Mitsotakis interview with ANT1 TV (Opens in a new window) was aired.
The PM claimed yet again he had nothing to do with the wiretapping.
“There is absolutely no evidence and there is no connection with me,” he claimed. “Is there really someone who believes that these three and a half years, with all that happened, in my free time I was spying on ministers’ spouses?”
he asked, not convincingly. He added it’s “shame and disgrace that somebody claims the Prime Minister wiretaps the Foreign Minister.”
Mitsotakis stated he has
“never denied that there is a center handling the predator malware, but that is very different to accusing the prime minister of orchestrating this surveillance.” It’s not EYP conducting the monitoring, the PM claimed. “We need to find out.”
The PM alleged that main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, “who wants to drag the country through the mire,” was behind Documento’s publisher, Kostas Vaxevanis, whom he characterized “a national danger” should he fail to provide evidence for his claims.
Mitsotakis went as far as citing a US court decision that he claimed linked Vaxevanis to a Russian oligarch and trusted aide of President Putin. This quickly proved an utter lie. “The Times has obtained a copy of the court decision, which makes no explicit reference to Vaxevanis,” the London Times reported (Opens in a new window). The newspaper added that Vaxevanis told The Times he would bring a libel action against the prime minister, who called him a “national security threat” during the interview.
Vaxevanis appeared (Opens in a new window) before a Supreme Court prosecutor after an urgent investigation was opened in response to the newspaper’s report. After testifying Vaxevanis insisted that the story was substantiated.
“Of course, there is credible proof substantiating the revelations,” he said. “We have already published four text messages sent to people who were being tapped proving that they were being illegally hacked.”
A most interesting twist in the story is that, according to Vaxevanis’s list, Greece’s oligarch, shipping magnate, media mogul, and football club owner (Olympiakos and Nottingham Forest) Vangelis Marinakis was also spied upon through wiretapped businessman Theodoros Karypidis and Parapolitika editor Yannis Kourtakis.
It is worth noting that Parapolitika, owned by Marinakis, has been flagrantly supporting the ND government all along.
The day after the list was first published, last Saturday, TA NEA newspaper, also owned by Marinakis was writing on its front page:
In a normal country, this front page wouldn’t be news. But in Greece it is. Because it was just a month ago that the flagrantly pro-government TA NEA had this front page:
It was just when the government wanted to turn publicity lights away from the scandal and had forced the Parliamentary Inquiry into the matter to fold failing to summon key witnesses (ND MPs rejected the proposal to call them).
On 7 November TA NEA reported (Opens in a new window) that the list does not include ‘only’ 33 people, but 106 in total. There has not been a follow-up since this was written.
Something even more interesting followed. A day after Vaxevanis’s report, Marinakis’s ‘right hand’ Olympiakos CEO Yannis Vrentzos stated (Opens in a new window):
“What is clear and has been revealed is that Greek football has been ruled by a fascist deep state, which is characterized by corruption and organized crime. This however is to be expected when the last three years an illicit regime is operating within the government, the Maximos Mansion, headed by Grigoris Dimitriadis and other underground and illegal elements. We will not tolerate lawlessness anymore. I personally suggest for Olympiacos to withdraw from the championship and resort to the courts for a catharsis of Greek football.”
Vrentzos’s statement was supposedly reasoned behind a penalty discourse in an Olympiakos-Panathinaikos game.
No reasonable person would believe that. The statement was a clear attack against the government, with Marinakis’s backing.
Marinakis also stated, “I have learned to change things when they need to change until now and most of the time.”
A storm of replies and new statements followed. Replying to Vrentzos the PM said:
“I am Olympiacos. Olympiacos has won three championships in the last three years. Where was this criminal organization then?” Clearly referring to Marinakis, he said that some people have confused their roles, “just because they own a football club or some media, possibly both, they think they can blackmail, dictate things to the government, undermine the country’s course by changing their opinion from one day to another…”
Marinakis’s final statement was more moderate, urging the government to move in order “to protect the public interest from the real, dangerous and deeply anti-democratic network which violated basic rights.”
If you think that this looks rather like a reckoning between clans than a political debate taking place within a democracy, you may have a point.
The court ruled the victim was innocent
“Family acquitted of charges of violence against officers (Opens in a new window)”: These were the titles this week, a perfect reflection on how the Greek state reverses facts in an alarmingly Orwellian way.
What happened this week is true that a court in Athens acquitted director Dimitris Indares and his two sons of violence against police officers and other misdemeanors during a raid to evacuate a squat in the central district of Koukaki in December 2019.
The twist is that Indares and his sons instead of being allowed to prosecute the police officers that raided their house, found themselves being the defendants.
In December 2019, Indares found himself handcuffed and hooded (Opens in a new window) at dawn on the roof of his Athens home.
The director was arrested after a bungled police raid on anarchist squatters in the neighboring building. “... 57-year-old Indares and his two sons are awaiting trial, accused of aiding the squatters when, according to Indares, they had simply refused to let police enter their house in order to access the squat,” Balkan Insight had reported (Opens in a new window). “The neighborhood had turned into a war zone and I didn’t want my house to become part of this war,” he told BIRN.
For critics of the police, Indares’s arrest – and the video (Opens in a new window) that subsequently surfaced – provided yet more damning evidence of the extent of heavy-handed police tactics in Greece,
When Indares’s family filed a complaint, prosecution authorities rejected it (Opens in a new window), arguing that the policemen who acted on the director’s rooftop were “in the context of their service duties” (no abuse of power, in other words). You can read here (Opens in a new window) more about the Indares incident.
This time however the prosecutor (a different one) was bold:
“The three defendants absolutely did not commit these acts. They became victims of blind, brutal, and arbitrary police brutality and were used by police forces to cover up the colossal failure of the operation. They became the scapegoats,” she told the court (Opens in a new window).
She also found contradictions in the statements of the officers in terms of what they originally claimed during the preliminary investigation and what they said in court. She cited video footage shown in court that “leaves no doubt that it was others who threw objects at the police and not the defendants, who were in their home.”
After the attack and during these years, there was an orchestrated top-level effort to slander Dimitris Indares and his family. Just to recall what state officials had said:
The policemen “did not exercise any violence,” a police press release stated before any investigation into the events. “It is shocking to see two young people [ie Indares’s sons] behaving with blatant hatred. We sympathize with their father who came out to protect them, the mother who intentionally or not spread fake news, like that there was no prosecutor…”
“Mom and dad were next door, and the two sons were staying in the house next door [i.e. the squat], which was obviously empty and deserted, they had made their money and had sent the kids to sleep there. They were taking electricity for free, and all was OK…” Agriculture Minister Voridis had stated (Opens in a new window).
“There is a squat next to your house, members of which every other week burn the police department. Why lady [ie Indares’s spouse] did you say no to the police who wanted to evacuate the squat? From what the family said, it can be concluded they supported the squat. Every law-abiding citizen would say yes, not no. If this lady was behind the door throwing nails and resisting the police, she might have some bruises. How would they arrest her if she went to kill the police officers? By fondling her?” the other far-right Minister Georgiadis had stated (Opens in a new window).
And the PM himself had said regarding the first court’s decision and the events were not as reported and that Justice has not concluded yet on the police’s accusations against Indare’s family
After three and a half years of Mitsotakis' government, it seems that unlawful police violence is intended to instill fear.
Just this week, during the strike demonstration, the police exercised violence (Opens in a new window) against at least two citizens - still unspecified if they were protesters or bypassers.
This has become a long time now the “new normal” in Greece.
EU and Greece are ‘together’ over migration: (Opens in a new window)Brussels is not only aware of the pressure on the bloc’s eastern border, but helping manage it, says Commission VP
Greek Asylum and Migration Minister Mitarachis said (Opens in a new window) “The Armed Forces play a catalytic role in our effort on the Migration issue, while they fight daily to keep Greece safe and secure, guarantors against any threat...”
That was all for this week, don't hesitate to get back to us simply by responding to this email!
The AL team