#PanousisGate and the circus


As you know already, Greece is a complicated and strange place. It is getting stranger under the proud guidance of Syriza.

A report from Vatican Radio (of all places), summarises the latest debacle nicely. The Greek former interior security minister says members of the ruling leftwing Syriza party maintain ties to convicted terrorists, and have threatened his life if he reveals them. Yannis Panousis (half of us are called Yannis, but there is disagreement as to the appropriate number of ‘n’s), Greece’s Public Order minister until two months ago, said he decided to go public despite the threats, and has testified before a prosecutor.  He says he knows of at least two serving parliamentary deputies of Syriza who maintain contacts with jailed terrorists. The allegations reopen old claims that Syriza has links with far-left anarchist groups, some of which have staged bloody attacks on police and kidnapped business figures.

According to the Greek Reporter, Panousis claims that a member of SYRIZA and advisor to the justice ministry Panayiotis Lamprou had close talks with a jailed member of the guerilla group Conspiracy of the Cells of Fire (left wing terrorists have a knack for complicated names). Panousis has presented as evidence a conversation inside a prison cell recorded by a bug placed by the National Intelligence Service. During the conversation Lamprou allegedly promises the imprisoned terrorist that a new bill to be signed by the justice ministry will include the release of certain terrorists and an easing on jail terms on convicts.

The government has responded with lawsuits. Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos and Deputy Citizen Protection Minister Nikos Toskas filed a complaint against everyone responsible for circulating allegations by Panousis (just in case you are wondering, this post is offering commentary on news reports, it is not circulating allegations). The two ministers reportedly asked the Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court to investigate possible criminal responsibilities and those who leaked the documents as well as the mass media that circulated Panousis’ allegations. Regarding the report, Paraskevopoulos said “it contains dialogues that are made public and we don’t know if they are real, but they seem to come from agencies that safeguard secrecy. These published texts generate concern and insecurity.” According to reports, the two ministers asked the prosecution to investigate offenses, such as privacy violation, stealing state documents, and violation of state secrets.

The anti-Syriza media (almost all of them) are making a big deal out of this. The reason is that Syriza has a lot of members who were involved in human and civil rights work. This work brought them into contact with convicts and people accused of common and terrorism related crimes. Defending the accused is an unpleasant job but someone has to do it. Nothing wrong with it. Ensuring that prisoners’ rights are respected is also an unpleasant job, but vital in a democracy.

Whether people on the fringe left had sympathies for left wing terrorist groups is another matter. We are not yet in a situation where people are convicted of impure thoughts.

Is it possible that Syriza members were colluding with convicted terrorists and considered Panousis enough of an impediment to their plans to threaten his life? This is implausible, but assessing whether it is true is now the job of prosecutors.

What is interesting is the (as usual) shambolic and incompetent reaction of the government. Even if Panousis violated the Greek version of the Official Secrets Act, having the Minister of Justice running to the prosecutor to open a case against a recent former minister of the same party seems rash. Various Syriza spokespeople yelling on TV studios about democracy and attempts to discredit the government and coups is silly.

Things are bad enough without constant new acts in this circus.




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