State prosecutors have dropped all charges against four environmental activists of the Committee Against Bird Slaughter (CABS), as a bird trapper paid them €7,000 in compensation for causing them bodily harm, it emerged on Thursday.
The Famagusta court also fined the trapper €500 for the use of illegal traps — 60 limesticks.
Police had charged the activists of trespassing into private property and damaging plantations based on a statement given by the poacher.
“We are happy that eventually the charges against us were dropped and environmental justice is served. We also welcome the statement of the judge, who emphasized in the trial that bird trapping is a common crime in Famagusta area and that wild birds and nature must be seriously protected,” Andrea Rutigliano, CABS Field Investigations Office,r said.
The case was filed on October 1, 2013.
Actual bodily harm charges against the poacher were dropped with CABS’ agreement who showed good will after he admitted guilt and agreed to pay them €7,000 in compensation for harm caused to them.
According to a press release, four CABS members located approximately 60 limesticks in an open area near the Sotira municipal forest and tried to remove them.
While they were collecting the limesticks from the bushes, two men appeared at the spot, the younger one was holding a long wooden cudgel.
The conservationists started moving away, but the young man caught one of them and started punching and beating him with the cudgel.
“Two of the CABS members, who were trying to help their colleague, were also badly beaten,” the press release said.
One CABS member sustained serious injuries to his left eye and foot.
A CABS field investigations officer, who was filming the whole incident, also sustained serious injuries to his ear — perforated ear drum — and his back.
The two poachers also took the camera and mobile phone from one of the activists, while they also smashed his glasses, the press release said.
The conservationists were treated in the Famagusta general hospital and in the Larnaca general hospital, where the CABS officer was examined for possible damage to his hearing.
Afterwards they went to file an official complaint to Dheryneia Police Station.
The police officers informed CABS members that the poachers had already filed an official complaint against them for trespassing on private property, damaging their plantations, and attacking them.
According to the press release, one of the poachers admitted to police that the CABS members had seized his limesticks, but he also claimed they went in the area in order to steal his cucumbers and tomatoes.
He not only he admitted that he took their video camera and mobile phone, but he actually returned the equipment to the police.
CABS said they will continue to organise bird protection camps every spring and autumn and called on the authorities to provide assistance.
“We hope that, after we have been found innocent, the minister of justice will realize that poaching is one of the most serious environmental problems in the Republic of Cyprus and that he will stop boycotting our bird protection camps,” Rutigliano said.
Although CABS has been active in Cyprus on a small scale since 2001, regular bird protection camps began in spring 2008.
Until spring 2013, bird protection camps were conducted in close cooperation with the authorities.
Since the suspension of the Spring 2013 bird protection camp by Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, further requests for cooperation and assistance by CABS to police have been systematically rejected or ignored.