A deputy speaker of Greece’s parliament has advocated “the necessity of spying on” the country’s Turkish Muslim deputies, local media has reported.
Charalambos Athanasiou, who is also a former justice minister and currently a deputy from the ruling conservative Nea Dimokratia (ND) party, was referring to three Muslim Turkish deputies, who all hail from the country’s Western Thrace region, as "potential agents of Türkiye", according to the Left.Gr news outlet, which cited an interview he gave on 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 neighbouring country — Türkiye — 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.
Burhan Baran, a Turkish Muslim deputy with the PASOK-KINAL, 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.
Greece's Western Thrace region – in the country’s northeast, near the Turkish border – is home to a substantial, long-established Muslim Turkish minority numbering around 150,000, or around a third of the population.
The rights of the Turks of Western Thrace were guaranteed under the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, but since then the situation has steadily deteriorated.
After a Greek junta came to power in 1967, the Turks of Western Thrace started to face harsher persecution and rights abuses by the Greek state, often in blatant violation of European court rulings.
The Turkish minority in Greece continues to face problems exercising its collective and civil rights and education rights, including Greek authorities banning the word “Turkish” in the names of associations, shuttering Turkish schools and trying to block the Turkish community from electing its own muftis.