Sparks fly over wiretapping witnesses

Opposition MPs storm out of acrimonious panel discussion in a foretaste of what lies ahead

Sparks fly over wiretapping witnesses

Tension boiled over on Thursday during a preparatory meeting to discuss the list of witnesses that will be summoned by the parliamentary committee of inquiry tasked with investigating Greece’s wiretapping case.

Ruling conservative New Democracy, which has a majority on the committee, proposed calling nine witnesses. However, socialist PASOK/KINAL presented a long list demanding that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and government ministers, among others, be summoned as well. A similar list was proposed by leftist SYRIZA, while communist KKE proposed calling figures from the 2015-19 SYRIZA-ANEL coalition government. The disagreements prompted opposition lawmakers to walk out before the meeting was completed. 

The PASOK/KINAL, SYRIZA and MeRA25 MPs left the meeting after ND lawmakers rejected what the former considered “essential witnesses” in the probe.

The committee will look into the wiretapping by the country’s secret service (EYP) of the phone of Nikos Androulakis, the leader of PASOK/KINAL. It will also examine allegations that phones belonging to KKE officials were tapped in 2016, under the SYRIZA-led government. It will have at least a month to carry out the probe.

In an indication of the polarized climate over the issue, tensions continued after the meeting, with SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras indirectly confirming that his plans in view of elections and possible post-election collaborations include the prospect of setting up a preliminary investigation committee against the current government. 

“Soon those who fight to impose darkness and undermine democracy will be held accountable to the Greek people and to the law,” Tsipras said in a statement. In response, government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou accused him of “political bullying.” He added that no matter how many threats Tsipras makes, the issue of wiretapping will extend back to cover the entire previous decide. He also said the government would not allow “political life to become a Roman arena.”

ND’s list of nine people that would be called as witnesses include the current and former chiefs of EYP, the president of the Hellenic Public Prosecutor’s Office, the head of the National Transparency Authority, the legal representatives of the companies Krikel and Intellexa, and Androulakis.

The ND majority on the committee reportedly did not rule out a future expansion of the list it recommended, if this is deemed necessary by developments.

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