The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its ruling in an application by disgraced former attorney-general Rikkos Erotokritou for release from jail on the grounds of a provision in the criminal that grants court official immunity from prosecution.
Erotokritou filed the petition for a writ of habeas corpus following his conviction in February to three-and-a-half years in jail for conspiring to subvert the course of justice and bribery while serving as deputy attorney-general in 2013.
The two sides presented their arguments on Thursday and the court reserved its judgement for an undisclosed later date.
Pavlos Angelides suggested the imprisonment was “unlawful and blatantly wrong.”
Angelides argued that preferential decrees were issued in cases where the applicant had blatantly been deprived of the right to present their case or a court with no jurisdiction had wrongly imposed a penalty or it had no right to judge the offence.
“The applicant’s case falls into the last case, where they have been convicted for a series of acts while covered by immunity from criminal and civil prosecution, in line with the constitution and the law,” Angelides argued.
A writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner before the court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful.
Erotokritou bases his petition on a provision in the criminal law relating to the legal immunity of judicial officers.
The provision in question states that apart from the cases where the code clearly states the opposite, judicial officers are legally immune for acts or omissions carried out during the execution of their duties, even if the action exceeded their authority or even if there was a legal obligation to carry out the action that had been omitted.
The crimes for which Erotokritou was found guilty were carried out while he was deputy attorney-general and his argument is that the post fulfils the criteria of ‘judicial officer’ and therefore exempts him from criminal prosecution.
On behalf of the state, Elias Stefanou argued that a habeas corpus could not be issued because the applicant was doing time on a sentence that was lawfully imposed, after his conviction by the criminal court.
Habeas Corpus could not be granted to people convicted on an indictment, nor for a review of court decisions, he said.
Stefanou added that Erotokritou also had the option of appealing the verdict, something which he has already done.
He listed a number of other reasons for which the application should be rejected, including that Erotokritou was not considered a judicial officer but a legal officer, as was the attorney-general.
Citing the criminal code provision used by Erotokritou to file the application, Stefanou said a careful analysis could only lead to one conclusion.
“The subjects enjoying the protection of this provision must, first, be judicial officers and also, this protection is afforded to them provided their actions or omissions were within their judicial duties,” he said. “The criminally liable actions that the criminal court decided the applicant had committed were not carried out by a judicial officer, and certainly not during exercising his duties.”