By Angelos Anastasiou
Police on Saturday defended raiding a photo exhibition Greek trans and gay activist Paola Revenioti at the old Nicosia municipal market, and seizing part of it on the grounds of lewd content.
Spokesman Andreas Angelides rejected charges of excess zeal in removing the pictures, saying police had received repeated complaints from members of the public that they had been subjected to pictures of naked male bodies as some of the photos had not been covered during the market’s working hours on Friday.
“Officers from the Paphos Gate police station were immediately dispatched to the scene, and eight photographs depicting naked male bodies were confiscated,” he said.
He added that the police remained in contact with the mayor of Nicosia in order to establish the conditions under which the permit for the exhibition had been granted.
He asserted that the police acted lawfully and without excess zeal, noting that since it had received multiple complaints it had to investigate the matter.
“What is important to note is that there is a law governing the public display of lewd content, in this case naked pictures in a public place,” he said.
Accept-LGBT Cyprus earlier on Saturday accused the police of censorship and discrimination after they shut down the exhibition.
The exhibition, named ‘Correction’, featured photographs of males – some naked – taken by Revenioti during the 1980s and ‘90s.
It had been organised to commemorate November 20, annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance. Accept-LGBT accused police of censorship and discrimination, arguing that they would hardly have intervened had the photographs been of naked women.
According to the group, all reasonable measures had been taken to avoid disrupting the municipal market’s operation during working hours, or offending the public.
“In an effort to protect the exhibits during the market’s working hours, Accept had covered them, and when some were spotted partly uncovered during the day, municipality staff covered them again immediately,” said the activist group in a statement.
“Therefore, the exhibits had been covered both when the complaint was filed and when they were confiscated.”
Police questioned Accept-LGBT’s head Costas Gavrielides, before officially charging him with displaying lewd content in public, and confiscated those exhibits that featured male reproductive organs as evidence.
According to the group, the police did not inform the Nicosia municipality, which had authorised the market as the venue for the exhibition, nor Accept-LGBT itself, so that it could remove the offending photos.
Prior to Nicosia, the exhibition had been organised in Athens and London, with no issues reported.
Accept said the development constituted a clear effort at censorship, a result of targeting the group itself and its action.
“The confiscation opposes every form of artistic expression that does not comply with the old-fashioned ideas by the police and the state as to what is art,” it said.
“The organisation has already filed a complaint with the Ombudswoman’s office, and will file an official complaint both with local bodies and the European Parliament and the European Commission.”
Despite the exhibit being taken down, viewings of Revenioti’s documentary “Kaliarnta” were due to continue as scheduled at the same venue.
On Thursday, when the exhibit opened, Revenioti had posted a “thank you” post on her Facebook page. “Thank you to Cyprus and all the exceptional friends I met – the most open-minded people on the island.”
“I leave with the best impressions, and extremely touched by the love I’ve been shown. I hope we meet again someday.”