Greece’s main opposition leader has called on the country’s prime minister to resign after he admitted that the nation’s spy chief bugged the phone of a senior political leader. The scandal is being dubbed Greece’s Watergate.
Speaking before Greece’s Parliament, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis took the stage, defending what he called “a mistake.”
The minute he found out, he said, he looked the Greek people in the eye and told them he knew nothing of what was going on.
It was wrong, he said, adding, however, that it was legal on national security grounds.
Greek law allows eavesdropping on criminal suspects, terrorists, and pedophiles,
but the Greek constitution bars phone-tapping of political leaders except on national security grounds.
Mitsotakis was hammered with complaints, charges, and demands during the heated debate Friday for failing to explain why the phone of Nikos Androulakis, the head of Greece’s Socialist party, had been tapped.
Instead, Mitsotakis added to conspiracy theories whirling since the scandal broke earlier this month that suggest Androulakis’ phone was hacked at the behest of foreign spy agencies.
Forces outside the country can only benefit from seeing this slip-up cause instability and a political crisis, he said.
Mitsotakis refused to elaborate, but Alexis Tsipras, Greece’s main opposition leader and a former prime minister, insisted the nation had to know why Androulakis’ phone tapping was allowed on grounds of national security.
“Is he a foreign agent, a spy? Your refusal, to tell the truth, is in itself an answer,” Tsipras said.
Local media loyal to the government have suggested Androulakis’s phone was hacked at the request of spy agencies from China, Armenia and Ukraine – allegations that the three countries have categorically denied.
Still, the scandal adds to fears of widespread surveillance across Europe at a moment when democracies feel threatened by Russian aggression. The European Union has begun to regularly check phones and other devices for listening applications and espionage.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has also been a target recently, along with President Emmanuel Macron of France, the former prime minister of Belgium and top EU officials.
During the heated parliamentary debate, Tsipras urged the government to resign, accusing it of defying democratic practices and acting in a way that was a disgrace to the Greek people.
Parliamentary probes are set to begin in the coming weeks.