Ex-minister says he will deny taking bribes from Siemens Former Transport Minister Tasos Mantelis is due to appear before investigating magistrate Maria Nikolakea today – after being given an additional two days to prepare his defense – as part of a judicial probe into his admission that he accepted money from Siemens Hellas. On leaving the magistrate’s office, Mantelis said, «With the truth as my weapon, I will stand up against all charges being lodged against me.» The former minister insists that the cash deposited in a Swiss bank account that had been opened by Giorgos Tsougranis, the godfather of Mantelis’s child, was a campaign donation and not a bribe. Billboard removal Cleanup of Marathonas Ave Culture and Tourism Minister Pavlos Geroulanos is today due to join Deputy Transport Minister Nikos Sifounakis in overseeing the launch of the fifth phase of a government cleanup of illegal roadside billboards, focusing on Marathonas Avenue. The sweep on Marathonas follows the removal of hundreds of billboards from other major thoroughfares in Attica, including Kifissias, Syngrou, Mesogeion and Katehaki avenues. A cleanup of billboards from alongside coastal Poseidonos Avenue is still under way. Pollution warning The Environment Ministry called on Athenians to leave their cars at home yesterday as sweltering temperatures caused air pollution to approach dangerous levels. Temperatures hit 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) yesterday and are expected to reach 39C (102.2F) today. The ministry advised citizens to use public transport and avoid refueling cars during the daytime. It also called on industry to make efforts to reduce emissions. Bomb hoax An anonymous telephone call to police early yesterday afternoon, warning that a bomb had been placed in Thessaloniki’s court complex, turned out to be hoax but caused panic as the venue had been the target of a real bomb attack in early May that caused one injury. According to police, a male caller telephoned the Lambrakis Press Group, which publishes Ta Nea and To Vima newspapers, and private television station Alter at about 1.30 p.m. warning that a bomb would go off at the court complex within 40 minutes. Police evacuated the premises but no bomb was found. Anti-Israeli protest Members of the Communist Party-affiliated labor union PAME barred access to the check-in counters of an Israeli airline at Athens International Airport yesterday in a symbolic protest against Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza. Around 30 protesters began blocking the counters of the Israeli airline El Al at about 9 a.m. The demonstrators, whose action came as a Libya-commissioned ship loaded with aid approached Gaza, left peacefully after about two hours with no significant delay to the Tel Aviv-bound flight, airport officials said.