By Constantinos Psillides
Attorney-general Costas Clerides said on Friday he would be looking into the possibility of bringing new charges for the Mari naval base blast in 2011, which resulted in the death of 13 people.
However he did not go to more detail during an interview he gave to the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).
Clerides said he had postponed all new decisions regarding Mari until the appeals from those found guilty in the original trial were exhausted.
Four people were found guilty over the blast. Former defence minister Costas Papacostas was handed a five-year sentence in 2013, while fire department chief Andreas Nicolaou and former fire department deputy Charalambos Charalambous were each given a two-year sentence. Former Disaster Response Unit Andreas Loizides was given a five-year sentence while former foreign minister Marcos Kyprianou was acquitted of all charges.
In December 2014 the Supreme Court acquitted and reinstated Nicolaou but rejected Papacostas’ appeal for pardon.
The blast was a result of shoddy maintenance on around 100 containers of explosives stored at the naval base, after being seized from a Syrian ship. The containers were left in the sun with minimum protection for over two years.
Many people –including the victims’ relatives- have publicly criticised the office of the Attorney-general for not prosecuting former president Demetris Christofias, claiming that he was the one ultimately responsible for seizing the containers and storing them at the base instead of handing them on to an international organisation, or destroying them.
Asked to comment on a presidential pardon for Papacostas, 76, due to his ill health, Clerides said the issue would be resolved shortly. Papacostas is currently at the Nicosia General Hospital, having served not a day in jail. The former minister has severe respiratory issues and suffered a heart attack earlier this month.
“A pardon is the president’s prerogative but the Attorney-general also has to agree. It is true that there are circumstances justifying a pardon on humanitarian ground. But having said that, I believe that it is best for everyone that the office of the Attorney-general is not influenced by anyone,” said Clerides.
Following a recent interview with CyBC where President Nicos Anastasiades all but announced a pardon for Papacostas, Clerides said last week that the suggestion had merit but on the other it could spark protests from the public, especially the victims’ relatives.
The relatives of the Mari victims visited the president last week and demanded that Papacostas not be granted a pardon.
The former minister’s family sent a public letter to Anastasiades this week, claiming that Papacostas was made a scapegoat for the Mari blast and that his health was gradually deteriorating. The family pointed out that the former minister could die at any moment and that even his doctors would not be able to save him should he have another heart attack.
“We ask for a pardon so Costas Papacostas can live what little life he is left with dignity in his own home, surrounded by his loved ones and not in a hospital room guarded by a police officer,” read the letter signed by his wife, his daughter and his son.