Two Syrian men aged 39 and 45, arrested on Thursday on suspicion of exporting cars illegally from the island to Syria, possibly to be used by Islamic State militants, were released on bail of €10,000 each by a Paphos court on Friday but have had their travel movements restricted, police said.
They are due to appear in court again on April 23 and face charges of violating customs and excise laws, illegal entry and transporting vehicles through an illegal port.
In the meantime, the court ordered them to hand in their travel documents and they must visit a police station once a week. They have also been put on the stop list.
Authorities said they could not speculate on the final destination or use of the twin-cabin pick-ups, but reports last year suggested Cypriot-registered vehicles were being used by militants in Syria.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said the Syrian men were questioned on suspicion of exporting 11 pick-ups between 2013 and March 2014.
“It looks like the route taken was through the occupied areas to Syria,” Angelides said.
In January, the head of Cyprus’ intelligence service said that a small number of Cypriot-registered pick-up trucks could have inadvertently ended up in the hands of Islamic State militants after being driven to the north of the island.
Western diplomats have in the past said a small number of Europeans seeking to join Islamic State may have used Cyprus as a transit point to avoid raising suspicions, arriving in government-controlled territory before heading to northern Cyprus and then on to Turkey and Syria.
Following their arrest, the two men admitted to smuggling vehicles into the north and exporting them from Kyrenia harbor, police said.
Both – permanent residents of Cyprus – have reportedly denied being linked to Islamic groups.
Authorities, who were alerted to the men by a tip-off, also suspect them of having funnelled cash to terrorist groups, CNA reported.
The arrests were made following a joint sting operation by the Criminal Investigation Department, the Crime Prevention Unit and the Police Rapid Response Unit (MMAD).