Greece to investigate torture allegations

By Jason Bennetto, Elinda Labropolou

ATHENS - The Greek justice ministry has launched an inquiry into the alleged torture of Pakistani terror suspects after their lawyer announced he would press charges against Greek intelligence officers named by a newspaper.

The weekly Proto Thema revealed on Sunday the identities of the alleged British MI6 station chief in Athens and that of 15 Greek officers.

They are alleged to have taken part in the arrest and abuse of 28 Pakistani terrorism suspects after the July 7 bombings in London.

Frangiskos Ragoussis, a lawyer representing several of the Pakistanis, yesterday said he would launch a formal complaint against the Greek intelligence officers named in the report.

The charges were not specified, but he asked that the officers be called to testify in front of his clients.

The newspaper's decision to identify the officers infuriated Greek authorities, while Britain has banned publication of the British agent's name.

The Greek Public Order Minister, Giorgos Voulgarakis, said two of the named agents had been withdrawn from their postings in Kosovo as a result of the report.

The Greek intelligence agency also deplored the naming of the officers.

The Greek Intelligence Services Employees Union said that it is against the law to give out names of intelligence officers "as they may endanger the physical safety of those who are identified by name".

But Greek public opinion appears to be mainly concerned about the possibility of British intelligence carrying out covert operations on Greek soil.

Proto Thema claims that the Greek Prime Minister, Kostas Karamanlis, sanctioned the British-led operation. It named two officials working in his office as taking part in the negotiations over the incident.

Opposition parties and human rights groups have called on both the Justice and the Public Order Minister to appear in parliament on January 11 to give their account of the incident.

Proto Thema reported that the men had been seized in July, held in secret and hooded in the alleged operation.

The UK Foreign Office has continued to vigorously deny that any British officials or intelligence officers were involved in the alleged interrogation of terror suspects held in Greece, describing the claim as "absolute nonsense".

Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, told his officials yesterday that any reports that MI6 were involved in the arrests were false.

"There is no UK involvement in the intelligence and questioning of these people. It is all absolute nonsense," a Foreign Office spokesman said.

Earlier this month Mr Straw told a committee of MPs: "No United Kingdom officials have taken part in any alleged mistreatment in Greece of any suspects whatsoever and we were not involved in the arrest or detention of those particular suspects."

The Government has issued a gagging order prohibiting the UK media from naming the man named as the MI6 station chief in Athens and who took part in the alleged torture. The Foreign Office is concerned about his safety.

The Greek government is under severe pressure for its handling of the alleged incident.

The popular daily Eleftherotypia, a supporter of the main opposition party Pasok, said the story highlights contradictions in government policy.

When initial reports emerged this month, the Public Order Minister denied it had taken place, while the Justice Minister, on the same day, called for an inquiry.

Athens chief prosecutor, Dimitris Papangelopoulos, yesterday asked that the case be handed from the police to the prosecutor's office.

The prosecutor's intervention, effectively removing the case from the Public Order Ministry, can only exacerbate reported antagonism between the two ministries.

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