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Cyprus

Paphos SMS text trial adjourned to September

Material witnesses received SMS text threats

By Constantinos Psillides

THE trial over threatening texts sent to witnesses involved in the Aristo Developers case has been adjourned for September 9, pending a verdict by the Supreme Court on whether the prosecution would be allowed to submit communication data as evidence.

Judge Giorgos Vlamis set the case for September stating that the outcome of that appeal could have a significant impact on the case.

Former mayor Savvas Vergas, his former assistant Maria Solomonidou, her husband Constantinos Sifantos and her father Elias Solomonides are accused of sending threatening texts to daily Politis Paphos correspondent Costas Nanos, municipal employee Androulla Efthymiou and current Paphos mayor Phedonas Phedonos.

The four face 11 charges including conspiracy to commit felony, threatening witnesses and intervening in judicial proceedings.

The text recipients were material witnesses in a case where construction company Aristo Developers was suspected of falsifying blueprints filed with the municipality, in an attempt to secure an area designated as greenery regarding a demarcation of plots at the Skali area in Paphos. That case is also on trial.

Vergas has already been sentenced to six years imprisonment on a third corruption case, this time regarding the town’s sewerage board (SAPA).

The four defendants are suspected of attempting to intimidate the witnesses, threatening to kill them if they didn’t keep quiet.

Police investigators have secured communication data showing that the texts originated from Vergas’ phone but it is now unclear if they will be allowed to present them in court.

In December 2014, defence lawyer Michalis Pikis filed an appeal at the Supreme Court asking for the court order that allowed authorities to access his data be dismissed.

Pikis filed the appeal on the grounds that on April 8, 2014 the EU Court of Justice declared EU Directive 24/2006 – governing data retention – as void on the basis that it violates human rights, especially the protection of private life and personal data.

Pikis argued that since Cyprus has transposed that directive into law, that law should also be deemed void.

Authorities have addressed this issue before, with Justice minister Ionas Nicolaou stating back in December that “Cypriot legislation on the matter was not only based on the EU directive. The capability of accessing communication data was also regulated by the constitution,” he had said.

This case is to be heard before the Supreme Court on June 2.

Pikis also filed a motion with the court to take his client, Maria Solomonidou, off the stop list so she could travel abroad on business. The judge rejected the motion, arguing that since Solomonidou doesn’t travel often there is no need to take her off the stop list.

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