Greek Cabinet Member Quits on First Day on Job Over Alleged anti-Semitic Tweets

Dimitris Kammenos - from a small right-wing party – claims his twitter account was hacked.

The Associated Press
Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras delivers his speech in parliament, Athens, July 16, 2015.Credit: Reuters
The Associated Press

Hours after starting his new job, a junior minister in Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras' left-wing government resigned late Wednesday over messages posted on his Twitter account that were considered racist and anti-Semitic.

Dimitris Kammenos, a deputy minister for infrastructure, submitted his resignation hours after Tsipras' new Cabinet was sworn in.

The 49-year-old Kammenos is a member of parliament from the Independent Greeks, a small right-wing party that joined the new coalition government after a general election was held Sunday.

Kammenos said offending comments posted in 2014 and 2015 on his account — which has now been canceled — were being investigated at his request by the police's cybercrime division. He added that several members of his staff had helped run the account.

Business Insider cited The Greek Analyst twitter account as cataloging the alleged tweets:

"I am opposed to any related posts which were perceived or were insulting to groups of fellow citizens. With this statement, I want to personally apologise to anyone disturbed (by this), and categorically condemn racism, homophobia and anti-semitism," Kammenos said in a statement. 

Tsipras, in Brussels for a summit on the European migrant crisis, telephoned his IG partners and asked for an explanation, an aide to the prime minister said. 

"The prime minister said that if all this is true, if these tweets are true, then he has to be relieved of his duties," an aide told Reuters. 

A replacement has already been found, the aide said. 

One Syriza lawmaker, Vassiliki Katrivanou, said the appointment was "a disgrace". The opposition Socialist PASOK party said it was a "blatant violation of fundamental principles of the political left." 

"Instead of turning its back on the past, the government is legitimising racism and anti-semitism," a PASOK spokesman said. 

Kammenos stirred controversy in the summer with a posting on his Facebook account superimposing the words "We will stay in Europe" on a photograph of the entrance to the Auschwitz concentration camp. 

It was his perceived attempt to illustrate the hardship encountered by Greeks, but slammed by many, including Greece's Jewish community, as a "hideous attempt to trivialise" Auschwitz. Kammenos later put it down to a misunderstanding. 

The resignation was an embarrassing start for Tsipras, who won a surprisingly comfortable election victory but now faces a major challenge in implementing the harsh terms of a third international bailout.