Judges and prosecutors joined yesterday with the main opposition party, PASOK, in denouncing Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras’s intervention in the judicial handling of a probe into the politically explosive case of the 1999 stock market bubble. But Papaligouras aggressively defended his decision, on Monday, to pressure Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos into appealing the shelving of charges against former Athens Stock Exchange and Capital Market Commission board members. «Those who complain of intervention are seeking a cover-up,» he said. «Their true intention is to cover up the government intervention in 1999 and 2000 on the stock market, which sucked up the savings of 1.5 million small investors.» After clocking a high of over 6,300 general share index points in September 1999, the bourse collapsed, shedding over half its value over the next two years. The index closed yesterday at a six-month high of 2,548.75. At the time, PASOK was in government and New Democracy – which came to power in March 2004 – made the stock bubble and subsequent crash a major political rallying call. Last week, the Council of Athens Misdemeanor Court Judges dropped charges against the former ASE and CMC officials due to insufficient evidence and expiry of the statute of limitations. In a rare public statement yesterday, the Association of Greek Judges and Prosecutors argued that any intervention in the course of justice is «impermissible and unacceptable.» «This is particularly so when such an act appears to derive from the minister of justice, and can be seen as an attempt of the executive to intervene in matters of the judiciary, and as an attempt to influence prosecutors and the judiciary in general,» the statement said. PASOK leader George Papandreou accused the government of «playing games» with justice. «On the one hand, they talk of independent justice and, on the other, they seek to goad the judiciary into action,» he said. But government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said the minister acted within his constitutional rights.