By Andria Kades
A video of police officers from Polis police station, which went viral on Wednesday shows an officer viciously beating a suspect in a cell. The 10-minute clip posted on Facebook appears to be CCTV footage from the station.
It shows one officer beating a man repeatedly with a truncheon, beginning on camera and continuing off-camera for a longer period while another looks on but later joins in with a few kicks while the man is on the ground.
The recording was made on February 10, 2014 just before 11pm.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou branded it a “shameful video”, that was “reprehensible and sad”, saying the officers would be suspended and prosecuted.
The video shows the man sitting in a cell when two policemen approach him. Spraying him in the face with an unknown substance, he backs into a corner whereupon they enter the cell and one policeman violently and repeatedly attacks him with a truncheon.
Although the upper half of his body cannot be seen, the sight of the man’s legs reveal he was on the ground and was still receiving blows to several parts of his body. based on the officer’s hand movements.
The second officer then edges in and begins to kick him a few times.
For the short moments the young man’s face is visible to the camera, he is seen to try and fend off the attacks with his hands but to no avail.
Although the two men take sporadic breaks heading to the cell entrance and looking outside, they resume kicking him. The video has no sound but there are points the two colleagues are seen speaking to each other and to the young man.
At one point, one of the policemen has his knee over the victim’s leg and is leaning over him.
The young man received an 18-month suspended sentence on Tuesday. The video was shown in court.
Nicolaou, in a written statement, said the attorney-general assigned an independent investigator through the independent authority for the investigation of allegations and complaints against the police to look into the case.
The investigators, according to Nicolaou found no criminal offence. Despite the finding, the attorney-general ordered the two policemen be charged with abuse of power, committing a criminal offence and torture.
The police force cannot take any measures while an investigation is ongoing however once the two policemen are charged, they will be suspended, Nicolaou reassured.
“It is sad that there was a delay with the investigation by the independent authority and these kinds of incidents need to be investigated quickly. Such incidents do not cultivate honour for our culture, and insult society itself and the police,” he said.
“These kinds of incidents are not acceptable. There is no room for this kind of behaviour and they will not remain unpunished.”
Nicolaou said he could not comment on the fact that the investigator found there had been no offence as he has not reviewed the file yet. The important thing was that the attorney-general ruled that the officers should be charged, he said.
An disciplinary investigation into the actions or lack thereof of the drug squad – who initially stopped the man to search him – will also go ahead as to why he was detained, as well as his allegations that he was not allowed to speak to a lawyer or go to the hospital for medical treatment. They will also look into finding out whether other police officers at the station knew about the incident.
The man was arrested last year after resisting a body search and although nothing illegal was found on him, he was taken to Polis Chrysochous station and detained for assaulting police officers, according to Paphos lawyer Epaminondas Korakides who posted the footage,
About four hours later “with his hands in handcuffs and after he was denied medical care, without being allowed to contact a lawyer, he was led to the cell foyer and asked to hand over his personal items so they could lock him in a cell.”
The man would not cooperate and asked for medical care after which police tried to immobilise him using force. He reacted and got into a fight with the two policemen. During the fracas, one officer hit him on the head, injuring him.
At the same time, a penknife fell from the man’s pocket which he grabbed and used to attack one of the policemen. He then ran and locked himself in a cell, the same one the beating subsequently takes place in.
The criminal court’s decision on Tuesday ruled that man should have received medical care when requested and been allowed to contact his lawyer, and that police had no reason to hold him.
After the incident, the man filed his complaint with the independent authority for investigating complaints and allegations against police.
Police chief Zacharias Chrysostomou said he could not make any comments on the case while there was an ongoing investigation but sought to state that “such forms of abuse of power create outrage and frustration but at the same time, shame.
“Shame because such forms of abuse of power take the force years back,” he said.
“This kind of behaviour is primarily unfair to the citizens who we are duty bound to serve, but also the hundreds of members of the force that put their lives at risk to protect people”. He stressed there was a zero tolerance police of any form of abuse of power from members of the force.