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ATHENS: Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis’ Greek government was hit with a double resignation on Friday, including that of the secret service chief splattered by an alleged spy scandal of an opposition leader and two journalists.

The director of the Greek intelligence services Panagiotis Kontoleon, appointed in August 2019 shortly after the election of the right-wing New Democracy party of Kyriakos Mitsotakis, resigned on Friday.

He did so due to management “errors” in the performance of his duties as head of the National Intelligence Services (EYP), the Prime Minister’s office said.

Panagiotis Kontoleon was immediately replaced by Themistoclis Demiris, hitherto Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the same source.

Since one of the first reforms of the government in place, much criticized by the opposition, Greek intelligence has been placed directly under the aegis of the Prime Minister.

A few hours earlier, another government official Grigoris Dimitriadis, secretary general of the Prime Minister’s office and nephew of the latter, also tendered his resignation and filed a complaint against the Reporters United website and the Greek daily Efimerida ton syntakton (left) which had implicated him.

These media as well as the investigation sites Inside Story and Solomon revealed facts of alleged surveillance via the illegal software Predator and Greek intelligence.

These two resignations come after the revelation last week of the attempt to listen to Nikos Androulakis, leader of the Kinal-Pasok (socialist), third parliamentary party, whose mobile phone was allegedly targeted by Predator.

“Discovering who is hidden behind these harmful practices is not a personal matter but a democratic duty,” Mr. Androulakis said at the time, urging the government to refrain from “any attempt (…) to minimize the affair”.

Admission of guilt»

This is the third case of alleged surveillance in Greece in less than a year: in April Thanassis Koukakis, a Greek journalist specializing in financial affairs, took legal action, denouncing the attack on his phone by Predator.

And in February, the secret service’s alleged wiretapping of another Greek investigative journalist on migration issues, Stavros Malichudis, was brought before the Supreme Court.

In all three cases, the government ruled out “any state involvement”.

Minister of State George Gerapetritis and right-hand man of the Prime Minister, had notably denied to AFP “any surveillance of journalists” in Greece.

Described as a “huge scandal” by the main opposition party Syriza (radical left), the attempt to monitor the boss of Kinal-Pasok was discussed on Friday behind closed doors by the parliamentary committee for Institutions and Transparency.

While still at the head of the EYP, Mr. Kontoleon had hinted that the two journalists would have been monitored on the orders of foreign services, causing an outcry.

Alexis Tsipras, leader of Syriza and ex-Prime Minister on the left, described Friday the resignation of Mr. Dimitriadis as an “admission of guilt”. He spoke of “the responsibilities of the Prime Minister himself”.

The government has repeatedly denied any involvement in the alleged surveillance in recent months, pointing out that the state did not buy this kind of software.

Its spokesman Yannis Economou even suggested that “presumably individuals” would have used Predator in Greece.

Orwellian reality»

Developed initially in North Macedonia, a country bordering Greece, by the Cytrox company, then in Israel, the Predator spyware hacks the targeted phone, and can access the messages and conversations of its user, according to experts.

“Predator is among the most expensive spyware, inaccessible to individuals,” cybersecurity specialist Anastasios Arampatzis told AFP.

It includes “many levels of security that only a state could need”, estimated this member of the Greek association Homo Digitalis for the protection of Internet users.

The government recalled that “all of Europe is facing surveillance threats”.

Kostas Karagounis, MP for New Democracy, said politicians in Europe had also been the targets of surveillance. “Does that mean that their respective governments are behind these surveillances?” he asked.

“Security and privacy must be ensured by any democratic regime. If a state surveils its citizens, we are heading towards a dystopian, Orwellian reality,” warns cyber expert Anastasios Arampatzis.

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