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Cyprus

Police chief hits back at ‘excessive force’ claims

Police Chief Zacharias Chrysostomou (R)

By Elias Hazou

THE police force on Thursday hit back at earlier remarks by a member of the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints Against the Police (IACAP) in relation to two cases involving the use of excessive force.

In a written statement, police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou said the comments made by IACAP member Evagoras Anastasiou were both inaccurate and out of place.

Speaking to reporters a day earlier, Anastasiou said IACAP had found the police to be at fault in at least two major cases.

The first case was related 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 second incident involved a 20-year football fan who lost an eye during a clash with riot police.

On the shootout incident, Anastasiou went on to allege that police tried to cover it up, as no shell casings were later recovered, making it impossible to carry out a ballistics test to determine which of the officers fired the lethal shot.

But the chief of police said Anastasiou had got his facts wrong. All the casings were retrieved, but not the bullet, he clarified.

“It seems Mr. Anastasiou was oblivious of the subsequent investigation carried out by the police,” Chrysostomou said.

Three of the officers who took part in the shoot-out are to be prosecuted for manslaughter.

The police chief said Anastasiou ought to have chosen his words more carefully when speaking publically on the issue.

“To say that police ‘murdered’ a citizen, before the case goes to trial is unethical and contravenes the axiom that a person is innocent until proven guilty,” Chrysostomou noted.

“As a prominent lawyer, Mr. Anastasiou should have known better,” he added.

Regarding the other incident, the police watchdog had found that officers used unnecessary force against a football fan. But IACAP also said they had been unable to identify the officer at fault because riot squad members wore helmets without any distinguishing markings.

Hitting back, Chrysostomou said the riot squad has been repeatedly asked to wear distinguishing markings.

“Mr. Anastasiou appears to be biased against the police, and in particular the riot squad,” the police chief said.

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