By Constantinos Psillides
LAWYER and civil activist Michalis Paraskeva, 38, will appear before court on May 5, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday, for the first hearing of his much publicised refusal to pay social insurance contributions.
The lawyer was originally going to appear before the Supreme Court on November 15. The judge made clear that May 5 is the final date of the hearing and that she won’t grant any more continuances.
Paraskeva considers his refusal as an act of civil disobedience, in response to what he claims is a plan by the government to write-off a €7.2bn debt to the Social Insurance Fund (SIF).
The massive debt to the SIF is the result of years of governments borrowing from the fund to plug holes in public finances. The troika of lenders requested in 2012 for that debt to be written off, although the state has yet to do so.
Talking to the Cyprus Mail, Paraskeva said that he remains optimistic. “Sometimes it feels like I’m trying to swim across an ocean. It’s a daily struggle but I’m optimistic. We are going to see this through,” he said as 50 people gathered outside the courtroom to voice their support.
Paraskeva believes that the state will trigger the collapse of the SIF if it writes off the debt. He maintains that the banks and the state are to blame for the financial meltdown and considers taking money off the SIF as an attack on the people.
A government source told the Cyprus Mail in November that the troika doesn’t consider the debt to the SIF as part of the country’s national debt, regarding it a “logistical anomaly that needs to be rectified.”
The source, an expert in economics, had told the Mail that the government never intended to pay the money back.
If found guilty, Paraskeva could face jail time and probably disbarment.
Paraskeva is no stranger to controversy and legal battles against the state. As a lawyer, he specialises in cases of ill-treated immigrants and clashed on numerous occasions with former Immigration head Annie Shiakalli.
Paraskeva is also active on social media. He regularly tweets from his account @osr55 (osr – only solution revolution) and he also writes on his blog osr55.wordpress.com.
A self proclaimed “libertarian socialist”, Paraskeva told the Cyprus Mail in October 2013 that he believes in fighting the system from within, instead of going to marches and throwing Molotov cocktails at police.
The lawyer had said then that he vehemently refuses to compromise. “If you want to be a slave, and a worm, and to crawl, then go ahead and do it, my friend – but I don’t accept that. OK? I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, and let them do what they want to me.”