Cyprus Mail

Longest-serving lifer stays in jail

Panayiotis Kafkaris

By George Psyllides

THE ISLAND’S longest serving lifer, who killed a businessman and his two children in Limassol 1987, was denied release from prison on Monday.

Cyprus’ parole board rejected Panayiotis Kafkaris’ application by a three to two majority vote. Kafkaris, 69, can apply again in two years.

He was sentenced to three life sentences March 1989, following the murder of 45-year-old businessman Panicos Michael and his two children aged 11 and 13.

Kafkaris had placed a bomb under Michael’s vehicle, which he detonated, killing all three.

During his trial he said he had been paid CYP £10,000 to kill Michael but he never revealed the name of the person who ordered the murder. It is understood that this is the reason why he is not being released.

Kafkaris had taken Cyprus to the European Court of Human Rights in 2004 over the duration of his imprisonment.

At the time the offence was committed life imprisonment in Cyprus was 20 years.

However, in 1988, the Nicosia Criminal Court interpreted life imprisonment as meaning imprisonment for life.

Consequently, when passing sentence in 1989, the Limassol Criminal Court, relied on the 1988 findings of its counterpart in Nicosia.

Despite this and to add to the confusion, when Kafkaris was admitted to prison to serve his sentence, he was given written notice by the prison authorities that the date set for his release was July 16, 2002.

On the form, under the heading “Sentence”, it was marked “Life” and then “Twenty Years”. Under the heading “Period” it was marked “From 17 July 1987 to 16 July 2007” and under the heading “Expiry” it was noted “Ordinary Remission 16 July 2002”. The applicant’s release was conditional on his good conduct and hard work during detention.

Kafkaris’ first appeal of his conviction was rejected by the Supreme Court in May 1990.

In March 1998, he applied to the president for pardon or the suspension of the remainder of his sentence to help care for his wife who was suffering from leukaemia.

The request was refused.

In January 2004, he filed an application to the Supreme Court challenging the legitimacy of his detention but that was also dismissed.

He went on to appeal at the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in 2008 that Cyprus had violated Article 7 of the Convention on Human Rights with regard to the quality of the law applicable at the material time.

Article 7 states that no one shall be held guilty of any criminal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a criminal offence under national or international law at the time when it was committed.

“Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the criminal offence was committed.”

In response, Cyprus pledged to set up a parole board but was censured by the ECHR in 2011 for failing to do so.

The board was eventually set up in 2013.

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