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Greek Journalists Testify on Spyware Affair to European Parliament Inquiry

Greek journalists and officials testified on Thursday at the first hearing of a European Parliamentary inquiry on the use of Predator surveillance spyware in Greece.

A group of Greek journalists and government officials on Thursday testified to a European Parliamentary inquiry about the “use of spyware in Greece” – part of a Committee of Inquiry on the use of Pegasus and equivalent spyware in Greece.

The PEGA invited the Greek journalist Thanasis Koukakis, who was targeted with Predator, Stavros Malichoudis, a victim of wire-tapping, and Eliza Triantafillou, an investigative journalist at the Greek media outlet Inside story, to share their experiences as targets and investigators of surveillance.

However, Koukakis was put out of the Investigative Committee after the Greek parliamentary majority voted against a proposal to summon the journalist, the main protagonist of the wiretapping scandal, as a witness.

“The PEGA committee has shown a sincere interest in the case of surveillance in Greece and I am sure that it will exert a lot of pressure to highlight aspects of the case that have not yet been clarified. I think this will become clear when the committee visits Greece,” Koukakis had earlier told BIRN.

Koukakis discovered that his phone had been infected with Predator and that he was being wiretapped as well.

In November 2021, BIRN contributor Malichoudis found that he was among a number of journalists, lawyers dealing with refugee cases, civil servants and anti-vaxxers being wiretapped by the Greek National Intelligence Service, NIS.

Koukakis and Malichoudis both believe they were targeted because of their work.

“We received questions from all MEPs from all parties, who even asked for our opinion in which direction they would move legislatively regarding spyware’s use,” Triantafyllou told BIRN of the hearing.

Triantafyllou, together with her colleague Tasos Telloglou, from Inside Story, revealed the “Predator-gate scandal” in Greece. Triantafyllou stressed that in Greece official investigations into privacy violations seemed to proceed slowly – while investigations into leaks to the media advanced much faster.

She added that spyware provider Intellexa’s activities should be investigated as well.

In the meantime, Ta Nea, a Greek media outlet, wrote that the records of the monitoring of Koukakis and Nikos Androulakis, head of the left-wing PASOK-KINAL, the third-largest party in the Greek parliament, almost fell victim to Predator surveillance software, and have been destroyed by NIS. Androulakis was not invited to the hearing.

When PEGA MEPs asked about the destroyed files, Christos Rammos, president of the independent Hellenic Authority for Communication Security and Privacy, did not deny destruction of the files but noted that the investigation is still ongoing and that he is not allowed to comment. MEPs called for more transparency and faster investigation of the case.

Panos Alexandris, Secretary General of the Greek Ministry of Justice and Human Rights,  told the committee: “I heard about a scandal, why is it a scandal? I don’t know if it is just because it is expressed in the press? Because some people believe so? … We [should] wait for the official results [of the Greek probe].”

“The appearance of the two government officials at the hearing was deeply disappointing. They refused to offer explanations, acted as if they don’t recognise their obligation to accountability and at one point even challenged whether there is an actual issue with state surveillance of journalists and politicians in Greece,” Malichoudis noted to BIRN.

“It’s embarrassing for state representatives that MEPs present in the room responded by openly laughing to their statements,” he added.

Another issue that is raising questions is that the Greek parliament’s own Investigative Committee, set up to investigate the state surveillance scandal, is operating in a state of complete secrecy.

Vouliwatch reported that minutes from the meetings will not be made public, while the transcribed texts will not be distributed to the MPs who are members of the committee but kept in a safe place.

Opposition MPs from SYRIZA, PASOK-KINAL and the Communist Party have disagreed with this practice.