Cyprus Mail

Appeals filed by three of Mari guilty

Former defence minister Costas Papacostas got five years

THE LAWYERS for three people found guilty in the trial over the July 2011 deadly munitions blast at a naval base yesterday appealed their convictions with the Supreme Court.

Appeals against the convictions were lodged on behalf of former defence minister Costas Papacostas, found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to five years in jail, and for senior firemen Charalambos Charalambous and Andreas Nicolaou – sentenced to two years in prison after being found guilty of causing death due to reckless and dangerous acts.

Andreas Loizides, former commander of the disaster response team EMAK, filed an appeal against his conviction last week. He was also handed down a two-year jail sentence for causing death due to reckless and dangerous acts.

Papacostas, 73, has been in hospital since the day of the verdict. The former minister, who quit hours after the explosion, suffered an aneurysm about two years ago and has ongoing heart, blood pressure and kidney problems.

In its verdict, the criminal court had said that Papacostas had direct responsibility over the safekeeping of the munitions. The maximum penalty for manslaughter is life.

Meanwhile the Attorney-general’s office is itself appealing the sentences handed down by the criminal court. Deputy AG Riccos Erotokritou has said the office considers the penalties as being too lenient.

The AG’s office has come under fire – particularly from the relatives of the blast victims – for its prosecution of the case.

The munitions, stored in containers at the Mari naval base, exploded on July 11, 2011, killing seven sailors and six firemen. The blast also damaged a nearby electricity plant, leading to rolling power cuts.

The munitions had been confiscated in 2009 from a Cyprus-flagged ship en route to Syria. They were then stacked in an open space at the base and left exposed to the elements until the day of the explosion, despite repeated warnings about the risks.

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