ATHENS: Greece on Friday remanded into custody two Pakistani suspects accused of plotting an anti-Semitic attack after they testified before a magistrate, their lawyer said.
The two men, aged 29 and 27, admitted exchanging messages concerning a possible attack on a Jewish restaurant in Athens, lawyer Iraklis Stavaris told AFP.
They are charged with participation in a terrorist organisation, a crime that carries a possible life sentence.
Stavaris on Friday said his clients had admitted exchanging Viber messages with a third man, whom police have identified as a Pakistani allegedly living in Iran.
On the third man’s instructions, Stavaris said, they scouted out and took photographs of a kosher restaurant in Athens that is also a Jewish prayer centre.
Police arrested the two Pakistanis in February for illegal entry into Greece.
Citizen’s Protection Minister Takis Theodorikakos told Skai TV this week that the alleged plot targeted “locations of Jewish and Israeli interest in Athens”. Asked if the case was watertight, he replied: “absolutely”.
“Monetary gain was the apparent motive,” he told the channel.
Police said separately that the pair had “already chosen the target of the attack” and were planning how to execute it.
Following an investigation by Greek intelligence agency EYP, anti-terror police carried out raids in Athens, Sparta on the Peloponnese peninsula and on the island of Zakynthos, the minister said.
Another 10 Pakistani men questioned in connection with the case were released Thursday after no incriminating evidence was found, a police source told AFP.
No weapons have been found, according to official statements so far.
Greece was included on a list of countries with travel warnings issued by Israel’s National Security Council ahead of the Jewish holiday of Passover in early April.
Israel this week accused Tehran of being behind the plot and said its Mossad intelligence agency had assisted the investigation.
“After the investigation of the suspects in Greece, the Mossad helped untangle the intelligence of the network, its operational methods and ties to Iran,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said on Tuesday.
“As part of the investigation, it emerged that the infrastructure in Greece was part of a broad Iranian network, operated from Iran toward many countries,” it added.
Iran’s embassy in Greece on Wednesday denied any connection to the alleged plot.
Greece’s Jewish community numbers around 5,000. The government has good relations with Israel, including a number of security and military agreements.
Greece has not been targeted by extremist attacks in recent years.
Greece’s intelligence agency EYP is seeking to regain credibility after a wiretap scandal that erupted last year.
Earlier in March, EYP hailed as a “success” the discovery of an alleged Russian spy after she had already fled the country.
The woman, who was using a fabricated Greek alias, had been in Greece since 2018.