Predatorgate scandal in Greece: RSF denounces the political sabotage of the investigation
Following the latest developments in the Predatorgate case, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) strongly condemns the intentional paralysis of the investigation by the Greek authorities. The alarming summoning of current and former members of the independent privacy watchdog (ADAE) as suspects and the unexpected transfer of the investigation to the Supreme Court prosecutor seem to be serious political obstructions.
In the Predatorgate scandal, which revealed the targeted surveillance of journalists by spyware, the investigation is at a complete standstill and Greek institutions seem determined not to let it progress. Recently, the Greek court summoned former board member of the independent watchdog ADAE Katerina Papanikolaou and current member Stefanos Gritzalis, as well as two other employees, accused of disclosing state secrets to one of the first targets of Predator spyware, journalist Thanasis Koukakis. "It is remarkable that the Greek justice system, that has not up until now — after 18 months — done anything, or charged anyone with spyware use, the same justice system rushes to prosecute two members of the oversight body, who just did their duty", reacted Christos Rammos, ADAE president, at the Civil Liberties Committee (LIBE) of the European Parliament on 26 October.
But that's not all: on 23 October, Supreme Court Prosecutor Georgia Adilini ordered the transfer of the Predatorgate investigation from the first-instance prosecutor’s office to the Supreme Court. This unexpected decision comes just as the prosecutors in charge of the investigation were about to compare the spyware’s target list with the one of the Greek National Intelligence Agency (EYP). Indeed, they wanted to verify potential matches between the 88 owners of the 92 telephone numbers, including several journalists, targeted with Predator, according to data revealed by the Hellenic Data Protection Authority (DPA), and the list of people whose telephone privacy was lifted by EYP.
According to recent leaks in the media, the number of common Predator-EYP targets could be as high as 40. The latest articles report that some targets were infected with Predator via text messages sent “within a few hours” from the mobile phone belonging to a political figure “who held an important government office until the summer of 2022”.
"The intentional paralysis of the Predatorgate investigation in Greece is unacceptable and constitutes a blow to the rule of law in the country. We urge the Greek judicial authorities to speed up the investigation without further delay and take immediate actions to allow the DPA and EYP lists to be compared, as well as finally proceed with criminal prosecutions. Why do the Greek authorities persist in paralyzing the investigation, while they target, without justification, those working to shed light on this case? The shameless political sabotage of the investigation must stop.
A delayed investigation
The comparison of the lists, which could be evidence of arbitrary wiretapping of journalists by the Greek authorities, has been delayed for some time. When the DPA's list was given to the first-instance prosecutor’s office in the summer, a two-month delay after the Greek parliamentary elections was introduced before a decision could be taken. The same concerns around delay apply also to the five-year statute of limitations for simple felonies in Greece. The transfer of the case to the Supreme Court could risk the statute of limitations to expire, making prosecution impossible.
These new developments in the Predatorgate investigation come just a few weeks after the Greek government suddenly changed the composition of ADAE's board, canceling ongoing efforts to shed light on the case.
Questioned by RSF about the reasons for sending the case to the Supreme Court, prosecutor Georgia Adilini, apparently embarrassed at the idea of explaining herself, lashed against RSF stating that the organisation’s questions were not “deserving for journalists” and replied that "almost all opposition parties and a portion of the media have long been arguing persistently for the need to upgrade judicial investigation to the highest level". Concerning a possible link between the transfer of the case to the Supreme Court and the request by the two former prosecutors to compare the two lists, the Supreme Court prosecutor explained that "you should know that the specific stage of the investigation, the pre-trial phase, is governed by the principle of secrecy, which protects the accused (and the 'suspect'), also implementing the presumption of innocence which prevails in European legislation".
Greece is ranked 107th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index – the lowest ranking of any European Union country.