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Cyprus

Threats remain to life of former president Christofias

Christofias' appearance before the committee of inquiry did little to increase his popularity

By Peter Stevenson

DESPITE his tenure as president ending several months ago it appears that the threat to Demetris Christofias’ life still remains, police said.

The former president still has a strong police presence of 15 bodyguards protecting his home in Nicosia and his holiday home in Kellaki whether he is there or not.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said yesterday that until threats on Christofias’ life have been fully investigated then the former president will keep the number of police officers guarding him.

Nicolaou said the Cabinet decided to follow the police’s advice and keep the guards in place until the end of the year.

The situation will be re-evaluated in December so that the former president’s guard can be reduced to the same number as other political figures.

“The reasons that the previous cabinet decided in February of this year to place 15 guards to protect the president were repeated in the police report and so we have asked the inspector in charge of the former president’s safety to determine whether those reasons remain in order to keep a large number of guards on his detail,” Nicolaou said.

The Justice Minister told reporters yesterday that a number of threatening phone calls had been made to Christofias and that they were being investigated.

“There are guards at his home, at Kellaki and in his escort. No other measures are being taken. They are the same measures which were ordered by the previous Cabinet which we were asked to keep in place. Once investigations are completed and we establish there is no danger to the former president’s life then the number of guards will be reduced,” he said.

In a letter published by daily Politis yesterday, the head of Christofias’ guard, inspector Andreas Ioannou explained to chief inspector Petros Pappouras from the crime prevention unit that it would be necessary to keep the former president’s guard in place for another three months. The letter was also forwarded to the chief of police Michalis Papageorgiou and the Justice Minister.

The decision to give Christofias a 15-man detail was due to end at the end of August but Ioannou’s letter informed his superiors he believed that they should remain.

“Especially following the Mari Naval Base explosion, the threats on the former president’s life have increased. From time to time we receive various information regarding threats on his life which result in us taking extra measures at his homes and during his travels,” the letter said.

Ioannou went on in the letter to say that a number of messages had been sent from two specific numbers threatening Christofias.

“The worrying thing is that they know our every move and where the former president will be going,” Ioannou said.

Christofias, who recently refused to answer questions at a panel of inquiry into the economic collapse on the island, has been heavily criticised for the role he played in the state of the country’s finances and the Mari blast in 2011.

The panel said Christofias’ behaviour was “inexcusable (and) contemptuous of institutions and the proper functioning of the law”.

Speaking at a news conference soon afterwards, Christofias said he had not refused to answer questions, adding that it was the committee that refused to let him read his statement.

MP Nicos Koutsou is also having his two guard detail re-evaluated after his departure from EVROKO, police said.

Former presidents Glafcos Clerides and Giorgos Vassiliou have three and two bodyguards respectively, head of DISY Averof Neophytou, AKEL general-secretary Andros Kyprianou and head of DIKO Marios Garoyian all have six each, Nicolaou said.



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