By Maria Gregoriou
THE LARNACA Criminal court convened yesterday to hear the mitigating arguments of defence lawyer Thanasis Korfiotis on behalf of his client Andreas Loizides, commander of the disaster response squad EMAK, in the trial into the Mari naval base explosion.
On July 9, the court convicted former defence minister Costas Papacostas of manslaughter, while firemen Andreas Nicolaou, Charalambos Charalambous and Loizides were found guilty of causing death due to reckless and dangerous acts. Sentencing will be on Friday. Papacostas faces life and the others, four years.
Korfiotis told the court yesterday he was not appealing against the conviction of his client but did ask for a suspended sentence. He said Loizides was a father of three, and had served in the fire department for 34 years.
He also said the police and the state did not involve the fire services in the Mari munitions issue before July 5, 2011. “The police knew about the munitions since 2009,” he said referring to the 98 confiscated containers of munitions stored at the naval base for two years before they exploded.
According to Korfiotis his client was the last to be informed that a fire had broken out in one of the containers but was the first to arrive on the scene.
“Those who were informed before my client, including National Guard leaders, failed to coordinate their actions even after hours of knowing about the dangerous situation,” Korfiotis said.
He said the munitions had been in flames for three hours and no army official was capable of giving any kind of order that might have saved lives, Korfiotis argued. Thirteen sailors and firemen ultimately perished.
Korfiotis also turned to the responsibility of the then President Demetris Christofias who was found to be responsible by an independent inquiry into the incident but could not be prosecuted due to presidential immunity. The lawyer said this was a mitigating factor in that “the less privileged and the less political” were the ones facing jail.
“My client will lose his position after 34 years of service and also his retirement benefits,” Korfiotis added.
In his closing argument, Korfiotis asked the court to give Loizides a suspended sentence but if imprisonment was a must, then he asked that the charges run concurrently.