By Andria Kades
Two police officers seen on video beating a man at Polis Chrysochous police station are expected to be charged today or tomorrow, the head of the Independent Authority for the Investigation of Allegations and Complaints against Police (IAIACAP) Andreas Spyridakis told the Cyprus Mail.
They face prosecution after a video recorded by a holding cell camera showed them beating a man. The two officers face charges of torture and abuse of power. Five other officers face disciplinary action.
The young man, 26, seen taking the beating on the video could barely communicate after the incident, his lawyer Epaminondas Korakides told the Cyprus Mail.
He also charged that the criminal investigator, authorised by IAIACAP, to probe the incident was removed from the case.
Korakides said he only found out by chance that the two members of the police force seen in the video had actually requested the investigator be replaced. Their request was heeded, it turns out.
The chairman of IAIACAP confirmed this but denied any wrongdoing.
“He had also asked to be removed from the case as he believed there would be a conflict of interest. This was only 15 days after he had started, the investigation hadn’t even begun yet,” Spyridakis said.
Asked what the conflict of interest may be, he said there was only a handful of investigators in Paphos and the one in question knew people at the station.
The IAIACAP was aware of this but still assigned him to the case, Spyridakis said, due to the limited number of available investigators.
There had not been any outside interferences. The investigator himself decided to withdraw from the case and the IAIACAP felt the same way, he added.
Korakides however cried foul, saying they were pandering to police demands to cover the officers. His statements, along with those of Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou contradicted those of Spyridakis on the findings of the investigator.
The lawyer, and Nicolaou, have said the second investigator determined the policemen had not committed a criminal offence but the attorney-general essentially overruled it, deeming they should be prosecuted.
Spyridakis rejected the claims, questioning where Nicolaou got his information from. He stressed that the investigator ruled that the policemen should be prosecuted, in agreement with the AG.
It all started when the 26-year-old was taken to the police station after he reacted to a search by the drug squad.
They alleged he had grabbed the jacket of one drug squad member.
“Although nothing illegal was found on him, he was taken to the station and due to a “small attack” against a policeman, he was arrested, Korakides said.
At the station, the man refused to hand over his personal belongings and scuffled with officers who allegedly hit him on the head with a pair of handcuffs.
During the melee, a keychain with a small penknife fell out of the 26-year-old’s pocket, which he used to attack an officer.
He was charged with assault and on Tuesday he received an 18-month suspended sentence for injuring a policeman.
Chairman of the Police Association Andreas Symeou said the 26-year-old threatened to “slaughter” the policemen and he stabbed one between 10 to 15 times.
Asked if he had a medical report to prove this, he said no and it was information he had heard.
Korakides called him an outright liar questioning the logic as to how much damage something attached to a keychain could cause. He does not deny the attack but the severity of it and the 15 stabs.
While under arrest, the 26-year-old was denied medical treatment and the right to speak to a lawyer.
He later locked in himself in the cell where the beating took place.
Two policemen entered the cell, after one of them sprays the man in the face with pepper spray. One violently and repeatedly beats him with a baton while the other looks on at first. He later joins the beating, kicking the man while he was on the ground.
“When I saw the young man, I said this person shouldn’t go back to the police holding cells,” Korakides said.
He was taken to the hospital suffering not only physical injuries but psychological trauma. “Do you know how much fear this can create? I couldn’t communicate with him at all”
The 26-year-old was not kept in the hospital and went to criminal court for a remand order. Korakides’ requested that he was not remanded at the station but in the hospital, was accepted.