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Athens News Agency: News in English, 07-01-09

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM orders defence ministry to 'leave no stone unturned' in draft dodging affair
  • [02] Opposition wants inquiry into phone bugging case
  • [03] Papoulias: 'Education matter of national importance'

  • [01] PM orders defence ministry to 'leave no stone unturned' in draft dodging affair

    An inner Cabinet meeting on Tuesday took up the resurfaced issue of conscription dodging, following the arrest of a high-ranking army officer last week on charges of tampering and forging official army records.

    According to Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis after the meeting, Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis appeared unwavering in instructing the ministry's leadership to fully uncover any and all instances of wrongdoing.

    The defense ministry and the independent military justice branch is investigating thousands of conscription exemptions and deferments, many citing flimsy medical reasons, that were granted to eligible Greek citizens over the years. As yet unsubstantiated press reports claim that a fair share of local &quot;celebrities&quot; -- performers, football players, well-known attorneys, politicians and even well-connected sons of business leaders -- benefited from the scam.

    Meimarakis, in fact, reiterated that the ministry's intent was to release the names of individuals illegal exempted from military service, a decision that was blocked by a personal data independent watchdog and by a subsequent Council of State ruling.

    &quot;What needs to be clarified, however, is to what extent the Hellenic Data Protection Authority can intervene, because not everyone can be slandered...&quot; he said, adding that in various developed countries a complete biography and in numerous situations, a medical approval, is released for individuals holding important positions.

    Moreover, Meimarakis, the former ruling New Democracy party secretary, flatly dismissed criticism by main opposition PASOK over the affair.

    &quot;The main opposition party must realise that it is the one under scrutiny, and it must apologise for the decay that existed all the years that it governed. All of the (conscription dodging) instances occurred before 2004 (when PASOK was in power),&quot; he stressed, adding that both criminal and administrative probes will proceed.

    &quot;All Greek citizens have the same rights and obligations,&quot; he underlined.

    Additionally, Meimarakis said there was no issue of raising the military tour of duty, with the ratio of professional troops vis-à-vis conscripts still being studied, &quot;although with conditions the way they are today, we cannot only rely on a professional military&quot;.

    Caption: Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. ANA-MPA photo.

    [02] Opposition wants inquiry into phone bugging case

    Main opposition PASOK and the smaller Coalition of the Left (Synaspismos) party on Tuesday again called for the formation of a Parliamentary committee of inquiry to investigate the unprecedented Vodafone phone tapping conspiracy.

    In a latter to Parliament president Anna Psarouda-Benaki, both parties criticised the government and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis for "acting with the reasoning of a cover-up..." PASOK and Synaspismos also charged that the government did not follow the law, failed to best exploit an independent telecoms security authority and "entangled" the justice system in an "essentially dead-end probe".

    The mobile phones of several top government cadres, including one infrequently used by the prime minister himself, as well as high-ranking military officials, a handful of well-known local anti-globalisation activists and even a US embassy employee -- more than 100 mobile phones in all - were bugged from within Vodafone's system.

    A day earlier, the government reiterated its position of opposing the establishment of Parliamentary committees of inquiry when cases are still being investigated by the independent judiciary. Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos made the statement at a regular press briefing when asked about opposition demands to form such a body vis-a-vis the phone tapping case.

    In the letter, which features the signatures of PASOK leader George Papandreou and Synaspismos head Alekos Alavanos prominently at the top, the two parties ask a series of questions, such as the identity of the perpetrators, a comprehensive list of the individuals whose phones were bugged and if the content of the under surveillance communications still exist, while sharply criticising the government's handling of the entire affair when it was uncovered in early 2005.

    Caption: PASOK leader George Papandreou. ANA-MPA photo

    [03] Papoulias: 'Education matter of national importance'

    President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias on Tuesday met separately with Education Minister Marietta Yiannakou and the union representing university professors, a day before debate begins in Parliament on revising controversial Article XVI , which precludes the establishment of recognised non-state universities in the country.

    In greeting the group of academics, Papoulias noted that "education is a matter of national importance, and I believe it there must be a foundation for consensus. By investing in education small European states have recorded excellent results and social progress, as well as economic progress and a brighter future for their children."

    Papoulias also met separately at the presidential mansion with Parliament vice-president Yiannis Tragakis, who also heads the legislature's constitutional revision committee.

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