By Poly Pantelides
THE ATTORNEY-general said yesterday he was appealing against the leniency of the sentences handed out to a former minister and three senior firemen for the deaths of 13 people in the July 2011 munitions’ blast in Mari.
Former defence minister Costas Papacostas, 73, was given five years for manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of life. Former fire service chief Andreas Nicolaou, former deputy chief Charalambos Charalambous, and Andreas Loizides, the former commander of the disaster response squad EMAK were each given two years. They were found guilty of causing death due to a reckless and dangerous act, which carries a maximum penalty of four years.
In setting the sentences on Friday, Larnaca Criminal Court said it had borne in mind the history and contribution Papacostas had made to his country, while taking into account his health, which has kept him in hospital since the guilty verdict on July 9. The court also took into account the family situation of the other three men, it said.
Clerides said the court’s justification did not reflect the full extent of what had happened.
He also criticised the court’s reference to former national guard chief and Greek national Petros Tsalikidis, against whom a European Arrest Warrant was never executed on the grounds he would be standing trial in Greece.
The court said that it did not know “if and when prosecution in Greece would proceed”. “The fact Tsalikidis was not among the persons who are to be punished today, constitutes in one way or another unequal treatment and creates feelings of injustice among the accused and society,” the court had said.
The Cyprus government and its legal services could not be held accountable for the Greek authorities’ refusal to hand Tsalikidis over and for their delay in prosecuting him, Clerides said.
The attorney-general has already appealed the decision to acquit former foreign minister Marcos Kyprianou of the charge of causing death due to a reckless and dangerous act (Kyprianou also faced manslaughter charges), and appealed the decisions to acquit Loizides and Charalambous of manslaughter.
The munitions, confiscated in 2009 from a Cyprus-flagged ship sailing from Iran to Syria, had been stored at Evangelos Florakis base in 98 containers left exposed to the elements until the day of their explosion. The blast killed seven sailors and six firemen and damaged the island’s biggest power station, nearby. Relatives of the victims complained that the four guilty parties were not given severe enough sentences.