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Extradition restrictions and judges pay under scrutiny at plenum

By George Psyllides

THE PLENUM is expected today to discuss two constitutional amendments that will lift extradition restrictions and scrap a provision banning cuts on judge pay.

Both matters have come to the fore recently, prompting authorities to review the constitutional provisions governing the extradition of Cypriot nationals and the protection afforded to judges’ salaries, considering the economic hardship sweeping the island.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of district court judges who had appealed against the pay cuts imposed as part of the effort to save the economy, arguing that their remuneration was protected by the Constitution.

Almost all district court judges had filed appeals citing Article 158.3 of the Constitution, which states that “the remuneration and other conditions of service of any such judge shall not be altered to his disadvantage after his appointment.”

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said the government was in favour of entirely scrapping any provision that imposed restrictions on the ability to reduce judges’ pay.

Nicolaou said the amendment will not affect the judiciary’s independence.

“On one hand the (Supreme) court’s decision might be right but one the other hand a group of state officials cannot be exempted at a time when everyone is contributing,” Nicolaou said.

The second amendment seeks to lift a restriction imposed by parliament in 2006, banning the extradition of Cypriot nationals for offenses committed before the island’s accession to the EU in May, 2004.

The restriction essentially violated EU rules.

“That is why we think this amendment must go through … so that the (EU) acquis is fully implemented, as is our obligation,” Nicolaou said.

Rumours suggested the restriction had been placed at the time to protect certain individuals.

The matter resurfaced in the past few days after Greek authorities issued a European arrest warrant against former interior minister Dinos Michaelides and his son Michalis.

They are wanted in connection with a money laundering case involving former Greek defence minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

The alleged offences took place between 1997 and 2001.

They both denied any wrongdoing but have refused to appear before a Greek court.

Their cases will be heard on July 24.

The justice minister said it was up to the court to decide whether a potential change of the constitution would affect the pair’s case.

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