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Cyprus

Families of blast victims renew call for Christofias’ prosecution

Lawyers representing the families of those killed in a deadly munitions blast in 2011 renewed their call on Thursday for the prosecution of former president Demetris Christofias, whom they hold responsible for the deaths of their loved ones.

The lawyers made the request during a meeting with new Attorney-general Costas Clerides.

“We believe that he should have been prosecuted and we explained to the new attorney-general the reasons, the real and the legal reasons, on which we base our demand,” Loukis Loukaides, one of the lawyers, said.

Thirteen sailors and fire-fighters were killed in the blast at the naval base at Mari.

Four people, including former defence minister Costas Papacostas, have been jailed in connection with the incident, which also incapacitated the island’s biggest power station.

An independent inquiry found Christofias mainly responsible for the incident, but its findings were non binding.

The inquiry said Christofias had been in charge of a decision-making process that failed to protect Cypriot citizens, despite repeated concerns expressed about the safety of the munitions.

UN inspectors, who had offered to examine the seized cargo, had been denied access, the inquiry said.

Christofias refused to resign, saying the inquiry had overstepped its mandate.

Former attorney-general Petros Clerides did not go after Christofias, who had immunity during his term in office.

Cypriot presidents have immunity during their term except for high treason, dishonourable offences or an offence “involving moral turpitude.”

The attorney-general, Loukaides said, will examine their demand.

“We believe he does not have immunity that prevents his arrest and he should be prosecuted because we consider him the main culprit for this tragic criminal accident,” Loukaides said.

The July 11 blast was caused by munitions stored in 98 containers seized in 2009 from a Cyprus-flagged ship sailing from Iran to Syria.

They had been stacked in an open space at the Evangelos Florakis base and left exposed to the elements for over two years.

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