Judges get tough as Baltakos probe gets under way

Panayiotis Baltakos, a former aide to Prime Minister Antonis Samaras who resigned last week over a video showing him in conversation with the spokesman of neo-fascist Golden Dawn Ilias Kasidiaris, told a prosecutor Monday that he had no idea he was being filmed, as a top Supreme Court judge warned that anyone found to have made use of illegally acquired recordings would face immediate arrest.

Baltakos, who testified for two-and-a-half hours before prosecutor Calliope Dagianta as a witness, said the meeting with Kasidiaris had taken place “about six months ago” in his office in Parliament “with the doors open” and had not been secret. According to sources, the former aide reiterated that it had been his initiative to “have contact” with Golden Dawn in a bid to understand the workings of the neo-fascist party with the ultimate aim of drawing back old New Democracy voters. He suggested, however, that his stance had not harmed the conservative party or the government. “I did not reveal anything to them or give them information,” he said.

On leaving the prosecutor’s office, Baltakos sought to reiterate his allegiance to the conservative party, saying “I was, I am and I will always be ND.” According to sources, Baltakos also insisted during his testimony that Samaras had not been aware of his meetings with Golden Dawn cadres, much less ordered them. “The prime minister had Merkel and Barroso to deal with,” Baltakos was quoted as saying, referring to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. “Should I have left him to deal with Kasidiaris too?”

Baltakos’s testimony is expected to lead to further charges being brought in the coming days against Kasidiaris, who already faces charges of setting up a criminal organization and illegal weapons possession.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Prosecutor Efterpi Koutzamani ordered Greek prosecutors to initiate proceedings for the immediate arrest of anyone found to have used illegally acquired footage. According to Koutzamani’s order, MPs found to have used such videos will face immediate arrest without the need for Parliament to vote to lift their immunity from prosecution.

Koutzamani issued the order in response to a request by Public Order Minister Nikos Dendias, asking her to investigate claims by the ultra-right party there are more secret videos.

In a development that appeared to be indirectly related, Failos Kranidiotis, a lawyer who is another close aide to Samaras, announced Monday that he would not be standing as a New Democracy candidate for European Parliament in May’s elections. Kranidiotis was elected to the conservative’s political committee last summer but has critics within ND and among opposition parties because of his strong nationalist views and hardline opinions on issues such as immigration. It was PASOK, the junior coalition partner, that sought his withdrawal however, Kathimerini understands.

“The agenda that our ideological opponents are trying to impose is to identify every nationalist voice with fascism, racism, the far-right and to make our party feel guilty about issues that have nothing to do with us,” Kranidiotis said.