Greek PM sacks minister over anti-Semitic tweets after only a few hours in office - World Jewish Congress

Greek PM sacks minister over anti-Semitic tweets after only a few hours in office

Greek PM sacks minister over anti-Semitic tweets after only a few hours in office


A deputy minister in the new Greek government of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was forced to step down less than 24 hours after being appointed over several anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks attributed to him. 

Dimitris Kammenos, a lawmaker from the nationalist Independent Greeks party who had been named junior infrastructure minister, sparked uproar earlier this year by comparing the EU to Auschwitz. He is also accused of peddling a conspiracy theory claiming that 2,500 Jews employed in New York's World Trade Center had "skipped work" on 11 September 2001.

Kammenos had been one of five members of the right-wing party named to the Tsipras government, which was also the junior party in his last administration.

As outrage over the nomination mounted, Tsipras stepped in to phone Independent Greeks leader Panos Kammenos, the defense minister and leader of the Independent Greeks, to ask him to verify the allegations against his namesake, to whom he is not related.

Should the allegations prove to be true "his presence within the government would not be compatible with the values" of the cabinet, Tsipras was quoted by the source as saying.

Dimitris Kammenos issued a statement "denouncing racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism" and claiming that his social media accounts were managed by associates, not by himself, and that they had been hacked repeatedly. "Most of [these posts] are distortions of the truth and have been carefully forged," he claimed.

However, by late Wednesday the 49-year-old had stepped down, saying it was in the "national interest" and that he wanted to allow the "proper functioning of government".

Dimitris Kammenos had mocked pro-EU demonstrators in June by posting a doctored picture of the gate to the Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz on hisFacebook page.

In the posting, the words 'Arbeit macht frei' over the gate were replaced with "We stay in Europe", the rallying call of the pro-EU demonstrators. The stunt caused outrage, with the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece (KIS) launching an immediate protest.

Kammenos, a reserve special forces captain and former lobbyist, later tweeted by way of apology: "The comparison may have been unfortunate but there is an economic holocaust under way in my country!"

In June, the To Vima weekly noted that Kammenos had also mocked the Athens gay pride parade as "pathetic". Homophobic comments were reportedly also found on his social media accounts.

The Independent Greeks party helped Tsipras' leftist Syriza party form a government in January when Syriza fell short of an absolute parliamentary majority. They returned to the coalition after Sunday's election that saw Tsipras re-elected, but again without an overall majority in the Hellenic Parliament.

Kammenos's Twitter page was not operational Wednesday. A photo posted on his personal website shows him standing to attention before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Athens, Greece's most revered military monument.

The KIS welcomed the removal of Kammenos from his ministerial post: In a letter to PM Tsipras, KIS wrote: "With the removal of this person from your government, a determined message was sent: that racism and anti-Semitism have no place in Greece, and should have no place in Europe either."