Greek government to face no-confidence vote over wiretapping scandal

An opposition leader called a no-confidence vote in the Greek government after naming officials put under surveillance by intelligence services, increasing pressure on Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the country’s wiretapping scandal.

Alexis Tsipras, a former prime minister and leader of the centre-left Syriza party, accused Mitsotakis of “masterminding” the wiretapping undertaken by the national intelligence service (EYP). Mitsotakis has denied allegations of wrongdoing. The wiretapping scandal will be a key campaign issue in Greek elections scheduled for spring.

“Sometimes we are in front of decisions that have historical value,” Tsipras said when he called for the no-confidence vote on Wednesday. “We have a duty to defend democracy, transparency and fairness.”

Tsipras revealed the names of those listed in a report into the scandal by ADAE, Greece’s independent authority for communications and privacy.

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He said a phone belonging to current labour minister Konstantinos Hatzidakis, a prominent member of the ruling centre-right New Democracy party, was tapped from November 2020 to May 2021, when he was energy minister. The chief of the armed forces, former head of the army and other military officials were also targeted by the secret services between July 2020 and May 2022 for reasons of national security, according to the Syriza leader.

The motion will be discussed by MPs this week before the no-confidence vote, which was approved by the parliament’s president, is held on Friday.

“I welcome the motion and it is true that I have been begging him for many months to do it,” said Mitsotakis. In a comment directed at Tsipras’s reign as prime minister from 2015 to 2019, he added that it was “a very good opportunity to compare our two tenures”.

Tsipras made the revelations a day after he met the head of the ADAE. The results of ADAE’s investigation were sent to all party leaders as well as to the president of parliament and the justice minister. Even though its content is highly classified and is not expected to be published, Tsipras revealed the names in parliament, citing concerns about rule of law in the EU member state.

The case is also still being investigated by Greek prosecutors.

In parliament, Tsipras questioned the reasons for placing the politicians and high-ranking military officials under EYP’s surveillance. “If the heads of the army are suspects for espionage, then why did they remain in their positions,” he said.

The wiretapping scandal has rocked Greek politics since last August when Mitsotakis revealed that the leader of Pasok, Greece’s third-largest political party who is also a member of the European parliament, had his phone tapped by EYP. The revelation led to the resignation of Panagiotis Kontoleon, head of the EYP, and Grigoris Dimitriadis, general secretary of the prime minister’s office, who is Mitsotakis’s nephew.

A government spokesman stressed on Tuesday that the surveillance activity was not known to Mitsotakis or the government. “Justice must quickly bring to light the real dimension of this case,” he added.

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