ATHENS – The former ruling Radical Left SYRIZA that was in power when July 23, 2018 fires killed 102 people has denied any blame for what critics said was a chaotic response – highlighted in a report saying there was a coverup.
After Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis said his government would get to the bottom of the accusations in an investigative report in the newspaper Kathimerini, SYRIZA shot back.
“(New Democracy) is once again trying to exploit the tragedy in Mati in order to promote its political agenda of lies and mudslinging,” SYRIZA said in a statement, also rejecting allegations it tried to hide what other reports said was its bungling.
The Leftists, whose leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras whose government at the time was also accused of trying to hide the initial death toll, rejected allegations it tried to manipulate an investigation into the causes of the inferno and possible faults by officials in handling the disaster, the paper said.
Mitsotakis had earlier said that the SYRIZA administration had made an “obvious coverup attempt” and that the investigation must find what happened that day although independent reports commissioned by the families of some victims pinpointed the lack of a disaster plan.
“We owe this to the memory of the victims,” he said. The paper presented evidence pointing to an effort by SYRIZA government officials to cover up the gross mishandling of the incident, including testimony from an investigator he was blocked.
Investigator Dimitris Liotsios filed formal complaints against former chief Fire Service Chief Vassilis Matthaiopoulos, alleging threats and blackmail to force the truth about the chaotic response to be kept hidden, the paper said.
Liotsios also submitted an audio recording of the most damning of these conversations. “If you write about your superiors having any blame, we will close ranks and tear you apart,” Mattaipoulos allegedly told him.
Using a string of profanities, Matthaiopoulos is also heard chiding Liotsios for demanding documents signed by then Attica Regional Governor Rena Dourou – facing stalled prosecution for her handling of the disaster – the forestry and fire service, accusing him of lacking the expertise to assess their content.
“Keep it simple, or they’ll take you for an idiot… Five little things: Wind, combustible matter, a mixture of pine trees and houses, anarchic, unplanned construction. And the result was that the fire got out of control in an hour… Five lines, five words, and hand it in. And the prosecutors? Some people will get the pie and you’ll get f…d. That’s how the game is played in Greece,” he also told the investigator.