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Cyprus

Changes underway at central prisons, probe to be concluded soon – minister

By Peter Stevenson

Investigations into recent incidents at the central prisons will be concluded as soon as possible so that those found responsible can be held accountable, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Friday.

“We want investigations to be concluded as soon as possible,” he said.

The criminal investigation will be completed within two months and the disciplinary investigation should be completed within 30 days.

“Former acting prison governor Giorgos Tryfonides is not under investigation and he has returned to his police duties,” Nicolaou said.

Nicolaou added though that following the investigations, if Tryfonides was implicated in any wrong-doing he would be held accountable.
The justice minister added that an agreement had been made with the public works department that a brand new prison wing would be built within 15 days to operate as a medical centre for cases where convicts needed to be kept under observation.

Block 10 – formerly used for detaining illegal immigrants before the edvent of the Menoyia centre – will also be renovated where 46 cells will operate for the purpose of a closed programme to help addicts and others who may have psychological issues.

Nicolaou said that the creation of such areas within the prisons would help improve medical care within the facility.

He added that the preparation of Block 34 within the Athalassa Mental Hospital had also begun and it would be renovated to meet European standards.
The minister said that the health ministry had not objected to the matter despite recent reports that suggested minister Petros Petrides had a different opinion.

Asked by reporters if he, as the responsible minister, had considered quitting, Nicolaou said what was needed right now was the immediate implementation of measures which would help solve the long-standing problems the prisons have been facing.

Nicolaou said that in the last eight or nine months a number of steps had been taken and efforts had been made but that the recent raft of measures “would help resolve many of the existing problems.”

There have been five suicides at the central prisons in the last seven months with a number of ongoing investigations into the actions of prison guards. A gang rape last week has added to the pressure on the authorities to shake up the facility.

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