Ministers at odds over taps

Papaligouras says suicide may be linked to snooping, Voulgarakis disagrees

The two ministers at the center of the government's handling of the phone-tapping affair briefed a parliamentary committee yesterday but disagreed over how significant the alleged suicide of a Vodafone technician was to the case.

Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis told the group of MPs that the death of 39-year-old Costas Tsalikidis, who was a top software engineer at the mobile telephony company where the spy software was installed, was not relevant to the overall investigation.

A prosecutor has just begun examining Tsalikidis's death after it was revealed that the technician was found dead on March 9 - two days after the spy software was discovered at Vodafone. Justice Minister Anastassis Papaligouras offered an opposing view.

«I cannot prejudge the independent judicial investigation,» Papaligouras told MPs. «I have complete trust that the justice system will investigate all the angles, not just the software but the suicide of Tsalikidis, about which there are many questions.»

Papaligouras also said he instructed Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos to examine the suicide as part of the investigation into the snooping after they were first informed of the matter last March.

Voulgarakis denied that by identifying the mobile phone masts used by the eavesdroppers he had suggested the US Embassy was involved in the operation. The minister said journalists jumped to that conclusion and that the signals from the mast actually covered most of the municipality of Athens.

The minister also justified the length of the 11-month preliminary investigation into the tapping by saying the police had to investigate thousands of calls made by more than 500 people around Greece. He also named 10 more people on the list of those being monitored. They were all high-ranking police officers.

Meanwhile, the former fiancee of Tsalikidis was questioned by prosecutor Yiannis Diotis yesterday. Sources told Kathimerini that she told him life had been going on as usual before the suicide and she did not have any indication that her fiance was so seriously troubled that he would kill himself. Tsalikidis's brother is expected to testify tomorrow.


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