By Constantinos Psillides
AN Ivory Coast national seen in a video having his leg injured during a police arrest last year is being taken to court over charges of causing actual bodily harm to a police officer, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said on Tuesday.
The disturbing video of the migrant being arrested on November 27 went viral, showing the man screaming while being handcuffed, pointing at his leg which appeared to have been broken. He was one of three African men randomly stopped by three MMAD officers.
The UNCHR expressed serious concerns over police’s decision to prosecute the migrant, pointing out that an investigation into the case by the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints has yet to be concluded, although Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou promised that it would be so within a month of the incident.
“Four months have since passed and not only the victim hasn’t yet been notified on the result of the investigation but finds himself accused of attacking and causing actual bodily harm to an officer,” the UNHCR said.
“This is an extremely worrying turn of events. We ask everyone involved to make sure that the accusations laid against the police be investigated without further delay, instead of going after the victim,” it added.
The Ivory Coast national has been living in Cyprus for years, is married to a Cypriot and has a child with her.
“They are trying to blackmail him into dropping his charges against the police for breaking his leg. They’ll make a case against him and will consent to drop it only after he agrees to not go through with his claim,” said head of immigrant support group KISA Doros Polycarpou, adding that prosecuting the migrant is completely outrageous and unacceptable.
“Fortunately for him he got lucky. Someone was filming what happened and you can see in the video what really happened. Not everyone is so lucky,” said the KISA head.
Polycarou said that prosecuting the Ivory Coast national will frighten other migrants into not reporting similar cases. “People are frightened of what will happen to them and their families if they go around accusing the police of brutality. They are scared and this is the reason why,” he said.
“We have been told by the office of the Attorney General that the investigation into the case is ongoing and we have not been informed of any conclusions of the criminal investigators. If that’s the case, how’s the public interest being served by prosecuting him, before the investigation concludes on what actually took place?” asked the man’s lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou.
The revelation of the migrant’s prosecution comes only a day after Amnesty International slammed Immigration Services and the police on migrant issues. The scathing report identified a “ruthless and chilling lack of compassion towards immigrants”, accusing Cypriot authorities of routinely detaining migrants and asylum seekers in prison like conditions, bending EU law to facilitate detention and deportation as well as routinely separating mothers from their children.