By Constantinos Psillides
POLICE covered up the death of a robbery suspect during a shoot out and the maiming of a football fan during a clash with law officers, according to the annual report by the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints Against the Police (IACAP).
According to police spokesman Andreas Angelides, the office of the Attorney-general will prosecute three of the officers who took part in the shoot-out.
Following a confirmation ceremony yesterday at the Presidential Palace for the investigative body’s newest member, Georgios Papantoniou a retired lawyer, IACAP member Evagoras Anastasiou told the press that they have found the police to be at fault in at least two major cases.
The first case is in connection to a car chase in December 2012, which included a shoot-out that resulted in the death of one of the suspects being pursued.
The suspects were spotted leaving an electronics store in Nicosia on December 24, after stealing €4,000 worth in electronic equipment. The patrol car gave chase and was soon joined by a second patrol car. Police officers shot at the burglars, injuring one of them and finally apprehending them near Marki village.
The injured suspect, a 32-year old Greek Cypriot, died at the hospital the following day. According to the police report the suspects had fired against the police officers, using a sawed-off shotgun.
Having investigated the case, the IACAP concluded that police officers used unnecessary force by firing their firearms and that there was an attempt to cover up the incident. According to the same report, four or five officers fired at the suspects from the two patrol cars but no casings were retrieved, making it impossible to carry out a ballistics test to determine who fired the bullet that killed the suspect.
The second incident involved a 20-year football fan who lost an eye during a clash with the riot police. The IACAP again concluded that police officers used unnecessary force but pointed out they cannot lay the blame with anyone, because nobody can identify the police officer in fault, since all of them wore helmets without any distinguishing markings.
“We have repeatedly asked the chief of police that members of the riot police have distinctive markings on their helmets so as people can tell them apart, in case they use unnecessary force. We are still waiting to hear back from the police chief,” said Anastasiou.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said that the police will do everything in its power to investigate the allegations made by the IACAP. He pointed out that the police is now forbidden by the office of the Attorney-general from investigating cases involving other police officers. Angelides stressed that the police is willing to work with the IACAP and the Attorney General to shed light on both cases.
Angelides said that the three officers involved in the shooting incident will be prosecuted for manslaughter.
“The case is currently with the prosecutor’s office in order to be taken to court,” he said.
With regard to the second case, the police spokesman said that the Attorney-general reviewed the evidence and found it insufficient to justify prosecution.
And with regard to the need for riot police to bear distinctive markings, Angelides said the deputy Attorney-general advised the chief of police on October 10, 2014, in a letter.
“That is, that riot police members should have distinctive markings on their gear so that they could be identified,” he said.
“The chief of police issued instructions immediately, and a study is being carried out with regard to this suggestion.”
President Nicos Anastasiades remarked that incidents of abusing authority and unacceptable acts of violence by police officers undermine the force’s integrity, noting that, “reports of this nature have declined in recent years.”
“Cyprus is going through a difficult period, which makes society more demanding from the state’s institutions, especially those tasked with safeguarding order and justice.
Anastasiades said that IACAP is the body in charge of monitoring those institutions and that, “the people are completely justified in demanding more from police officers.
Commenting on the annual report, IACAP chairman Andreas Spyridakis said that the investigative body mainly asks for an increase in budget, “since complaints against police have increased by 50 per cent since 2006.”
Spyridakis said that the authority received 220 complaints in 2014, compared to 130 in 2013.
“Most of the complaints have to do with police brutality in football matches, incidents related to the Mari naval blast and the Menoyia holding area. There were also complaints from people claiming that they were victims of police brutality during their arrest.
The IACAP can be contacted at 22-872412 or via email at [email protected]