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Athens News Agency: News in English, 09-06-01

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM visits Fire Brigade Operations Center
  • [02] Siemens case suspects before magistrate on Wednesday

  • [01] PM visits Fire Brigade Operations Center

    Prime minister Costas Karamanlis on Monday visited the Fire Brigade's operations center in Halandri, north of Athens, where he was briefed on preparations for this year's high-risk fire period.

    Karamanlis said afterwards that the Fire Brigade was well-prepared, both with respect to means and staff, of carrying out its duty this summer.

    The significance of its mission was to protect the lives and properties of the citizens, environmental protection and protection of the country's forests, especially at a time when rapid climate change was giving rise to unforeseeable and exceptionally hazardous conditions.

    For this year's high-risk period, the prime minister noted that an additional 68 new fire engines and 45 auxiliary vehicles have been added to the Brigade's existing fleet of 1,500 fire engines, while a further 50 fire engines were to be taken delivery of soon.

    Regarding airborne means, Karamanlis noted that Greece has one of the largest airborne firefighting fleets internationally, adding that a tender for the leasing of 16 additional helicopters would soon be completed to enhance the fleet.

    With respect to personnel, the prime minister noted that the hiring process for 553 new firefighters has been completed, who have already been incorporated into the Fire Corps, while a class of 240 cadets entered the Fire Brigade School in mid-May, and 5,500 seasonal firefighters with vast experience in forest fires have been re-hired.

    Karamanlis further stressed the important role played by volunteer firefighters who, he explained, always hasten to help the Fire Brigade in its task. "We honor them and thank them, and we are encouraging them through local government programs," the premier added.

    He further thanked the Fire Brigade staff for their consistency and self-sacrifice, and assured them that the State will be at their side and will ensure the best possible conditions for their task.

    Caption: ANA-MPA file photo of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis

    [02] Siemens case suspects before magistrate on Wednesday

    The special examining magistrate in charge of the ongoing Siemens bribery investigation, Nikos Zagorianos, on Monday gave two suspects in the case an additional two days to prepare their defence, which they must now present to him on Wednesday.

    Former Siemens Greece executive Ilias Georgiou and former Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) executive Georgios Skarpelis, both of whom are currently being held in custody, appeared before the magistrate on Monday with their lawyers and said they had still not received the entire file related to the case, which is in the process of being photocopied by judicial officials.

    The suspects requested a lengthy extension of the deadline so that they could study the documents and that the warrants for their arrest issued on Friday be revoked. The magistrate declined to release them, however, and gave them until Wednesday to prepare their defence, in accordance with the deadline imposed in the case of persons in custody.

    Skarpelis' defence was also informed of an order issued by the Misdemeanours court justices council agreeing to the suspect's request to be given access to the entire case file, on the grounds that this was the only way he could effectively prepare his defence during the hearing before the magistrate, in accordance with the Constitution.

    The order rejects the defendant's requests to cancel the summons to appear before the magistrate, to cancel their act informing them of the charges and for the translation of documents in the case file, ruling that it was right to include documents supplied by a U.S. legal firm that carried out an internal inspection of the Siemens' parent company.

    Finally, it said a request for an expert assessment of the damage to OTE might be ordered during the course of the magistrate's investigation, if this was considered necessary.

    An appeal against the order issued by the justices' council has been lodged by Appeals Court Public Prosecutor Kyriakos Karoutsos, however, who has assigned the task to an Appeals Deputy Public Prosecutor.

    Greek judicial authorities have come under intense criticism for allowing two key suspects in the case, Mihalis Christoforakos and most recently former Siemens executive Christos Karavelas, to flee the country before the case came to trial. All four suspects are charged with bribery and money-laundering in connection with a 1997 deal between Siemens and the state telecom OTE.

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