Cyprus Mail

Justice minister brushes off calls for his resignation

Traffic blocked before the GSP stadium on Tuesday

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou on Thursday brushed off calls for his resignation over football-related clashes, describing them as hypocritical attacks that served different expediencies each time.

The minister censured the police handling of the situation before a match on Tuesday night but also slammed the clubs and football authorities.

“My role and responsibility is the supervision, among other departments, of the police,” he told reporters. “It is not my role to plan or carry out police operations.”

His statements, the first since fan clashes on Tuesday saw one man lose his eye and a dozen others wounded, came as police conceded there had been lapses in their security operation but also blamed clubs for not implementing what had been agreed before the game in Nicosia between hosts APOEL and Limassol’s AEL.

Rival fans met on the motorway near the GSP stadium when the plan was to prevent them from doing so by using different routes.

“I have not learned to hide or to refuse my responsibilities,” the minister said. “But I will neither continue to excuse the responsibilities of others nor leave unanswered hypocritical political attacks, which serve other expediencies every time.”

Nicolaou said mistakes had been made in the planning and execution of the operation, which was now the subject of a probe.

“I expect swift completion of the investigation and immediate decisions based on its findings,” the minister said, spelling it out that he expected sanctions.

“I want to be clear towards the police: from the moment mistakes have already been detected, there are responsibilities.”

Nicolaou said an independent investigator has been appointed to look into possible criminal responsibilities.

On Wednesday, police conceded there had been weaknesses and omissions in the operation but it also blamed the clubs and supporters.

The minister said he would not cover or excuse the mistakes made by the police but he would not accept the force being turned into a scapegoat once more.

“I consider the clubs’ stance unacceptable and hypocritical and I at least expected the CFA, as the organiser of the league, to assume its share of the responsibility,” Nicolaou said.

New legislation to fast track prosecutions of people involved in football-related violence is expected to be submitted to parliament in the next few days, the minister said.

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