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Western Thrace: "Athanasiu's statements are incompatible with the principles of human rights and equality"

ANKARA (AA): A deputy speaker of Greece’s parliament has advocated “the necessity of spying on” the country’s Turkish Muslim deputies, local media reported Thursday.

Charalambos Athanasiou, who is also a former justice minister and currently a deputy from the ruling conservative Nea Dimokratia (ND) party, was referring to the three Muslim Turkish deputies, who all hail from the country’s Western Thrace region, as potential agents of Turkey, according to the Left.Gr news outlet, which cited an interview he gave Wednesday to the StoNisi news channel.

“Let’s suppose that a member of parliament who has a religious orientation completely different from Orthodox Christians gives information to a neighboring country — Turkey — about where irregular immigrants can come in,” he said, adding that national intelligence would have to take precautions in such a scenario, according to the outlet.

Asked whether the deputies can be monitored, Athanasiou replied: “If the procedure provided for by the legislator is followed, of course.”

His remarks caused an uproar, particularly from the country’s leftist opposition parties

The main opposition party SYRIZA-PS, stressed in a statement that Athanasiou essentially claims that those who are not Orthodox Christians are national threats.

“However, in reality, Charalambos Athanasiou said unequivocally what (Prime Minister Kyriakos) Mitsotakis hinted at in a speech, attempting to cover up the dangerous actions of his government with references to national security and ‘dark forces,’” the statement said.

Calling on the prime minister to dismiss Athanasiou, the party argued that Mitsotakis will have shown that he is consenting with his comments.

The PASOK-KINAL party also said in its statement that Athanasiou’s remarks plunge Greece into intolerance and create a severe national rift by claiming the minority deputies can potentially betray national interests.

“We demand immediate intervention against the parliamentary speaker by explicitly condemning the unacceptable, divisive statement by Athanasiou,” it added.

Athanasiou in a supposedly hypothetical example linked Muslim MPs in Greece’s Parliament with possible espionage on Turkey’s behalf due to their religion, reported

“Let us suppose that an MP has a religious orientation different than that of Orthodox people, a Muslim MP from northern Greece – this is not a barb, God forbid. If we take the example that he might give some information to our neighbouring country [Turkey], from where migrants can enter the country and so forth, why should he not be checked [surveilled]? Here national security takes precedence,” Athanasiou declared.

The Greek Communist Party (KKE) noted that Athanasiou proved that the term “national security” has become a band-aid that everyone and everything can fit in in order to legitimize and facilitate unacceptable practices of monitoring and eavesdropping.

Burhan Baran, a Turkish Muslim deputy with the PASOK-KINAL, also condemned Athanasiou’s remarks.

Referring to the minority deputies of parliament as potential suspects of national treason and therefore saying it would be “legitimate” to monitor them cultivates a spirit of dogmatism and intolerance, Baran stressed.

Another PASOK-KINAL MP Ahmet Ilhan, a Muslim lawyer who represents the Rodopi district of Western Thrace, lambasted Athanasiou.

“I flatly condemn the public position-statement of the deputy speaker of Parliament, Charalambos Athanasiou, who is reviving the theory of the internal enemy in the persons of people of other faiths, and Muslim MPs in particular. This statement, beyond the spirit of bigotry which it brings to social mores, renders every minority MP suspect of treacherous actions, and thus worthy of being placed under surveillance,” Ilhan tweeted.

“The country’s political system and Parliament have a duty to defend the constitutional liberties of citizens and not to create distinctions between MPs based on their religious convictions. After the case of our party president, Nikos Androulakis, we are confronted with a new institutional affront,” he concluded.

Turkish community in Western Thrace have condemned the statement by the former Justice Minister.

“Charalampos Athanasiou’s statement is absolutely scandalous! Is Greece not an EU country but a banana republic? What should we understand from Athanasiou’s statement? Are our deputies in the Parliament being wiretapped as a source danger on grounds of national security?” asked Halit Habip Oğlu, President of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF).

“The fact that Athanasiou cites our Turkish deputies in parliament as an example of how deputies can be legally wiretapped clearly shows his perspective on the Turkish community in Western Thrace in the country and our deputies who represent our community in parliament.

“‘Whatever the dervish’s idea is, it is his chant’, that is, what the heart thinks, the tongue speaks. We are perceived as a threat to national security and public order in our own country! “

Oglu has demanded for the resignation of the MP.

“After this statement, Athanasiou should resign! I regret to say that this perception is not limited to Athanasiou! This is the mentality of the state, the perception in today’s politics, and the view of the media! We are marginalised, we are perceived as a threat! We are not seen as part of this country; we are not treated as such! The Minority policy of the state from past to present reflects this understanding and attitude!’’, said Halit Habip Oğlu, President of the Federation of Western Thrace Turks in Europe (ABTTF).

Additional report by The Muslim News


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