AS OF yesterday former interior minister Dinos Michaelides was taken from hospital to the Nicosia central prisons, five days after the court ordered his arrest and detention until he could be extradited to Greece.
There, he is wanted in connection with alleged kickbacks paid in the purchase by Greece of Russian TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile systems.
His move to the prison came as a bit of a welcome surprise. It was assumed he would remain in hospital until the Supreme Court had heard his appeal, which was filed yesterday, and because it has curiously become a bit of a habit for high-profile detainees to collapse in court and be taken to hospital rather than a prison cell.
On July 9 former defence minister Costas Papacostas was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of 13 people at the Mari naval base blast in 2011. He was taken to prison but within an hour, was transferred to the Nicosia General Hospital, and despite the fact he was sentenced to five years on August 2, he remains in hospital.
That is not to diminish the fact that both Michaelides and Papacostas are in their seventies and both have a history of genuine medical problems.
But does that justify the extent of the special treatment offered to them while other prisoners have to make do with whatever the prison hospital can provide?
Earlier this month a 27-year-old who killed his sister with a laptop in 2012 committed suicide at the prison. He had a known history of psychological problems and he, his sister and mother were under the care of social services.
Yet he was hauled off to a cell instead of being locked up in a secure wing at the Athalassa psychiatric hospital where he might have received the full-time care he needed instead of the limited help available in an overstretched and overcrowded prison block. Why did two former ministers get prior hospital care and he didn’t?
Clearly there is something wrong with the prison system when its most celebrated inmate, rapist and murderer, Antonis Kitas was in 2008 taken to a private clinic where he regularly ate pizza while supposedly being treated for a gastrointestinal problem, and enjoyed countless privileges for six months before escaping and being recaptured.
It would not have happened if the prison had been properly equipped to handle its own medical cases. Similarly both Michaelides and Papacostas would be receiving the health care they needed from the moment they were supposed to have been behind bars, and also the prison might not have seen two suicides in the space of a month.
It’s high time the state created a proper hospital wing at the prison instead of effectively creating a ‘prison wing’ at a hospital, with a few more privileges of course.