By Elias Hazou
ALTHOUGH authorities do not have specific information on a terrorist strike in Cyprus, they are taking all preventative measures, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Monday.
Security is being stepped up at airports and other points of entry and exit, the checkpoints, as well as at foreign embassies and the premises of foreign corporations, Nicolaou said.
These are in line with broader security precautions being taken across EU countries to pre-empt and deal with potential terrorist attacks, relating to the so-called foreign fighters – non-Middle Eastern nationals who have joined the ranks of the Islamic State in Syria.
“The measures will remain in force for a substantial length of time – not just a couple of weeks – until the terror threat has ceased,” the minister said.
A day earlier, the chief of police likewise told Politis that Cyprus currently faces no specific terror threat, adding that authorities here are in touch with Interpol, Europol and the FBI.
Although for the moment there is no cause for alarm, Nicolaou said, the government will inform the public of any possible danger should the need arise.
The measures in place would be reviewed at a later date and beefed up if necessary, he added.
Nicolaou declined to comment on media reports that the National Guard may be deployed to help police with guarding sites or with patrols.
He was speaking to reporters following a meeting with the police leadership, during which a bevy of issues were discussed, including ways of boosting the police’s legal arsenal in investigating crime.
In particular, the justice ministry is working on amending legislation concerning phone tapping, to allow this in certain cases.
Authorities say the absence of laws explicitly allowing phone surveillance has deprived them of the means to investigate and crack corruption cases, such as match-fixing in football.
The ministry also intends to bring legislation making it compulsory for users of prepaid phone cards to provide identification, in what is hoped will help curb crime.
In addition, the ministry is working to formalise, by law or in a regulation, the anonymous oral reporting of corruption in the public sector, in line with GRECO’s (Group of States against corruption) recommendation to Cyprus.
Under the existing provisions of the Public Service Law, a person may give information about suspected corruption without identifying himself/herself, but only if this information is given in writing.
The government wants to afford greater legal protection to whistleblowers, such as keeping their identity secret and shielding them from reprisals (such as being transferred).
Encouraging whistleblowers to come forward was key to fighting corruption in public life, Nicolaou said, noting that several suspected cases in the past had come to nothing.
Lastly, legislation is being prepared to enshrine into law undercover police officers.