Decision on reopening case of 2011 deadly blast in final stage, Attorney General tells CNA

Decision on reopening case of 2011 deadly blast in final stage, Attorney General tells CNA

Attorney General Costas Clerides has told CNA that decision making on a possible pardon for former Defence Minister Costas Papacostas and reopening the case of a deadly blast at a Naval Base Evangelos Florakis, in Mari, in July 2011, which killed 13 persons, is at a final stage.

In an interview with CNA, Clerides says that the request for a pardon has been submitted on behalf of Papacostas but has not been reviewed, pending his appeal before the Supreme Court.

He recalls that granting a pardon is a constitutional right of the President of the Republic which can take place only after the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General give their consent.

“The appeal was rejected and the conviction reaffirmed and we are now at a stage when we are looking into all the factors which we have to take into consideration before making such a difficult by its very nature decision”, he notes.

He explains that when reviewing such requests the Attorney General has to take the public interest into account. Therefore, he adds, the Attorney General can take into consideration external factors such as humanitarian reasons, the state of health of the applicant and possible reaction of concerned parties.

At the same time, however, he points out that it would be for the best to avoid direct interventions towards the Attorney General or the Law Office in general as to which direction the decision should be.

Replying to a question over the demand of the relatives of those who perished in the blast to reopen the investigation, the Attorney General explains that a decision has not been taken on that matter either pending the appeal process.

“This matter has now been clarified and is at the stage of a final decision,” he notes.

Thirteen people were killed and dozens injured on July 11, 2011, when a massive explosion occurred at the naval base, badly damaging the island’s main power plant, at Vasiliko. Papacostas was sentenced to five years in jail. On 9 July, 2014 he was found guilty of manslaughter by the Assize Court with regard to the Mari case, a decision upheld on appeal by the Supreme Court. He is currently in Nicosia Hospital due to health problems.

Replying to a question over the investigations into allegations that Social Democratic EDEK MP Fidias Sarikas had when holding the post of Mayor of Paphos committed a criminal offence, Clerides says that “interrogations continue”, but refrained from elaborating.

“If we are led to the conclusion that there is enough evidence for the case to be brought to court, we will proceed with an indictment, maybe together with other persons who have already been charged”, he says.

Asked about contractors who despite having admitted bribing public officials can nevertheless submit tenders to the public sector, Clerides said that a meeting takes place soon “to deal and resolve these matters in a consistent way”.

He expresses the point of view that there are legislative provisions on professional misconduct which could lead to a decision to ban such contractors from public tender processes.

On allegations of match fixing in the Cypriot football league, Clerides says the referee Marios Panayi, who had initially made the allegations, has been called in to give an additional statement to the police regarding public statements he made recently.

The investigation is ongoing and has still not been completed, he adds. At the same time he says meetings between the police and the Law Office, including himself and Deputy Attorney General Rikkos Erotokritou, take place regularly.

The Attorney General also stresses that leaks that appear in the media from time to time regarding cases which are being investigatin are “unacceptable and damaging”.

He acknowledges however that it would be very difficult to near impossible to wipe out such leaks, unless all parties involved in the process behave responsibly.

Replying to another question, he makes it clear that during the many years he has served as a judge and since his appointment to the post of Attorney General he has ever been on the receiving end of any political or other intervention as regards his duties, powers and remit of competence, nor has such a matter come to his attention.

However, he acknowledges that there are at times instances when it is attempted to indirectly intervene in the course of justice. To that extent, he gives the example of public statements or reports which try to exercise undue pressure either on the Attorney General or the courts as to how they are expected to reach a decision or how they should deal with a serious matter.

Such efforts of “manipulating” institutions which are “beyond the limits of an expression of opinion in good faith should be avoided”, he points out.

Replying to a question over the expropriation of property in cases where legal or natural persons are convicted in connection with a financial scandal, he explains that existing legislation allows for assets to be seized.

With the assistance of the Unit for Combating Money Laundering, he says, such orders have been issued quite often and have resulted in freezing or seizing assets in the order of many millions of euros.