By Stefanos Evripidou
ATTORNEY-GENERAL Petros Clerides has submitted his resignation, the government revealed yesterday.
Clerides, 67, will be leaving his post on September 15. Reports said he would have been retiring in a few months.
The outgoing legal chief was born in Nicosia and trained in Athens. He spent almost his entire career at the Legal Service, joining at the age of 26 as a legal assistant after only two years as a private lawyer.
In 2000, he was appointed deputy Attorney-general and in May 2005 Attorney-general.
In an interview with the Cyprus Mail three years ago, Clerides said: “My only goal is to leave this post and have a good name, nothing more… Not even in my most ambitious dreams did I ever imagine that I’d hold this position.”
His long career has not been without incident.
Having jurisdiction over all criminal cases, the AG is responsible for deciding whether a case should go forward or be withdrawn. He also has authority over private criminal cases.
Clerides came under heavy fire when he openly admitted on television that he had used his ‘nolle prosequi’ powers to drop charges against his son related to driving offences.
His handling of the high-profile Helios air crash and Mari explosion trials also attracted plenty of criticism while in February this year the Supreme Court censured Clerides over comments he made concerning an attempt to seize a ministerial car – in public – for an unpaid state debt.
More recently, Clerides and the government have traded blows over who was responsible for the legal preparations made to set up a Committee of Inquiry to investigate the causes of Cyprus’ near economic collapse.
After former president Demetris Christofias refused to take oral questions at the inquiry, the panel referred his refusal to the AG, calling on him to rule whether Chrisrtofias violated the law by refusing to cooperate.
Former attorney-general Alecos Markides waded into the fray saying that the panel inquiry was wrongly set up and therefore, technically, illegal.
The government pointed out that the AG had signed off on the establishment of the committee so it must be legal, at which point, Clerides countered that he signs off on many new beginnings but at no point was he asked or did he deliver a legal opinion on the establishment of the economic inquiry.
To date, Clerides has yet to respond to the committee of inquiry regarding Christofias’ refusal to play ball with the panel.
President Nicos Anastasiades will replace the outgoing attorney-general with Supreme Court judge Costas Clerides. The new top lawyer will be sworn in on September 16.
Costas Clerides, 61, was appointed Supreme Court judge in 2009.
He read law in London and was called to the Bar at the MiddleTemple.
After his return to Cyprus he practised law for 10 years before he was appointed district judge in 1988.
He was promoted to senior district judge in 1996 and district court president a year later.
The soon-to-be appointed Clerides has served as the president of the Limassol Assizes Court, administrative president of the Larnaca-Famagusta district court and, administrative president of the Nicosia-Kyrenia District Court.
He is married and has one son.