WHITEWASH is probably the most accurate way to describe the findings of the investigation into the actions of suspended senior attorney Eleni Loizidou. The findings, referred to the Public Service Commission (PSC), will at most lead to a mild rebuke of Loizidou for disciplinary offences, while completely ignoring the much more important issue – a senior attorney at the State Legal Services acting like a zealous employee of another state, and offering advice beyond the call of duty.
The authorities found a legalistic excuse to avoid examining Loizidou’s emails. Even the few made public – a tiny proportion of the several thousand posted on a Russian website – revealed the extent of her divided loyalties and her inclination to pass on more information to another state than was necessary. This point was raised by Attorney-general Costas Clerides in his letter to the PSC, when explaining his decision to suspend her. The content of her emails relating to official business, however, was not examined by the investigating officer.
Clerides explained the legal reasons for this last week. Regarding the “question of whether the investigating officer could take into account in his investigation the content of electronic messages that had been obtained without the permission of the communicating parties and in violation of the provisions of the law and the Constitution, the opinion was negative,” he said. The opinion, given to the investigating officer by the private lawyer appointed by the attorney-general to take charge of the investigation, defied belief.
These were emails about official business, written by a senior state attorney and therefore property of the state. Official correspondence of a state employee cannot be protected by privacy laws when the employee’s professional behaviour is being examined. Was Clerides suggesting that if a state employee was sending official emails that compromised state security or revealed confidential state information, nothing would be done? Does the attorney-general need to have the permission of his subordinate to examine emails sent in the latter’s official capacity if he considers the subordinate is not doing his or her job in an acceptable way?
Clerides had acknowledged the possibility that Loizidou’s emails may have exhibited unprofessional behaviour in his letter to the PSC, an excerpt of which was published by Politis. Loizidou’s correspondence with officials of the Russian Federation, Clerides wrote, “show, among other things, the conveying of service and, prospectively, confidential information that possibly deviate from the strict boundaries for the briefing of the applicant state in a procedure for the extradition of fugitives and legal cooperation as well the influencing of pending requests.”
Despite the attorney-general’s position that Loizidou may have been passing on confidential information to another state and influencing pending extradition requests, the content of the emails was left untouched by the investigation, on the spurious grounds that the emails were obtained illegally. Surely, the attorney-general could have obtained the emails legally, as they are the property of his office, and passed them on to the investigator, if he so wished.
He chose not to do so and this says everything about the aim of the investigation.