Greek paper prints photo of 'MI6 agent'

From John Carr in Athens for Times Online

A photograph purporting to be Britain's top MI6 agent in Greece was published today on the front page of an Athens newspaper, as controversy continues over the alleged role of British agents in the arrest and supposed abuse of a group of Pakistanis living in Athens.

The left-of-centre national daily Eleftherotypia ran a photograph of a middle-aged man running a marathon race, claiming he was both a British embassy diplomat and the head of the supposed clandestine arresting team.

More than one Greek newspaper has named the diplomat, drawing fire from the Greek and British governments, which say that such acts endanger the security apparatus of both countries. The Pakistani embassy in Athens has also expressed its displeasure.

The diplomat in question was hurriedly recalled to London late last month.

Eleftherotypia said that the photo came from Frangiskos Rangoussis, a lawyer for 28 Pakistanis who in recent weeks came forward with stories of midnight arrests and days of interrogation, including instances of abuse, in undisclosed locations.

Some said that they were repeatedly kicked in the head, while others said they were hooded and manacled for long periods, in interrogations not long after the July 7 terrorist bombings in London.

The Athens Classic Marathon is an annual autumn event that draws many expatriates with athletic inclinations. Covering the original 41-kilometre route, it is partly sponsored by the Greek state sporting federation. All participants finishing the race have their photos routinely taken.

The alleged MI6 chief is shown squinting into the camera in the sunlight, his face contorted with effort, wearing a white T-shirt.

The newspaper, which generally plays up news that is potentially embarrassing to Britain and America, headlined its top story "The Long-Distance Kidnapper."

Evidence from the Pakistanis themselves has been confusing. Shortly before the new year they partly retracted the charges of abuse, and hinted that they had no proof that any of the agents who arrested them was British, as they all appeared to speak good Greek.

Earlier this week some news reports said that only six Pakistanis, and not 28, were involved. No known evidence has emerged linking any of those arrested to the London attacks.

Mr Rangoussis last week was rapped over the knuckles by the Athens Bar Association, which said that his frequent flamboyant appearances and loose talk on evening television talk shows was casting discredit on the legal profession.

The Greek Parliament meets on January 11 to debate the Pakistani issue. George Voulgarakis, the Public Order Minister, is expected to field tough questions from the opposition leftwing benches. The Greek Government so far has aligned itself with London, insisting that the Pakistanis' allegations are unfounded.