Greek journalists reiterate government fully responsible for ‘illegal surveillance’

Greek media claims intelligence service destroyed surveillance files of journalist, main opposition party leader.

Greek journalists reiterate government fully responsible for ‘illegal surveillance’

The Greek journalists who were monitored by the country’s intelligence service reiterated the government bears full responsibility for their surveillance, which they said was illegal.

His surveillance was ordered by the government which grew “annoyed” with stories he wrote for Financial Times regarding how the government favored tax evaders and corrupted bankers, said Thanasis Koukakis on Thursday during the testimony he gave at the European Parliament’s PEGA committee on the surveillance scandal in Greece.

He revealed that there were at least two attempts by the National Intelligence Service (EYP) to monitor him, in 2020 and in 2021, by conventional methods initially and then Israeli-made Predator spyware.

University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab confirmed in a detailed report in September 2021 that his cell phone was infected by Predator, Koukakis further said.

He drew attention that the government systematically rejects having Predator in its possession.

If European Parliament had not found out about the surveillance of Nikos Androulakis, leader of Greek opposition party PASOK and a member of European Parliament, his case of surveillance too would have been uncovered, Koukakis said.

He added that he is sure that more cases of surveillance will soon be revealed.

Another journalist, Stavros Malihoudis, for his part, emphasized that the reason behind his surveillance was his coverage of refugee-related issues, including illegal pushback practices by Greek elements in the Aegean Sea.

He stressed that through his surveillance the EYP also aimed to reach dozens of other journalists.

Meanwhile, Greek daily Avgi claimed that the EYP destroyed surveillance files on Koukakis and Androulakis.

The daily stressed that EYP, by doing so, violated the law which obligated to save the surveillance files at least for two years.

Surveillance scandal

In an Aug. 8 address to the nation, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged that Androulakis was wiretapped by the intel agency but denied knowledge of the operation.

"It was formally OK but politically unacceptable," he said.

The announcement followed the resignation of EYP head Panagiotis Kontoleon and the Prime Minister's Secretary General Grigoris Dimitriadis on Aug. 5.

The scandal unfolded on Aug. 4 when Kontoleon told a parliamentary committee that his agency had been spying on financial journalist Thanasis Koukakis.

A parliamentary probe was launched after Androulakis complained to top prosecutors about an attempt to hack his mobile phone with Predator.

Opposition parties blame Mitsotakis for the scandal and have called for his government to hold snap elections, something he rejects.

The European Commission and European Parliament are closely monitoring developments related to the scandal.