By Andria Kades
Criminal charges against two policemen seen on video beating a young man, 26, in a police cell at Polis Chrysochous are expected to be filed on Tuesday, with the case likely to be referred to the Criminal Court on instructions by Attorney General Costas Clerides.
Another five policemen will face disciplinary charges, while the lawyer representing the man who suffered the beating may face charges for uploading the video online.
The lawyer, Epaminondas Korakides, posted the video on Facebook last Tuesday in a bid to pressure the authorities into action against the policemen.
Subsequent press reports suggested that Korakides may be prosecuted for making it public.
He justified his action by saying the material had already been shown in court during an open trial, and had thus been available to the general public.
On Monday, the Paphos Bar Association sent a letter to Clerides, asking him to confirm or deny the reports, and protesting that such leaks to the press “obviously aims at discouraging lawyers and others from posting similar videos”.
“However, the Legal Service showed no such zeal in connection with similar leaks relating to serious and ongoing cases,” the letter said.
“Therefore, it follows that the intention of those who leaked this information was not to discourage the publication of evidence in general, but of evidence against policemen.”
The Paphos Bar Association said such attitudes have no place in the judicial system, and asked Clerides to investigate the matter and take all necessary measures.
Meanwhile on Monday, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou met with the Cyprus Police Association, a meeting pre-arranged a month ago that was naturally dominated by the contents of the viral video.
People responsible “will have to face the law and disciplinary procedures because these people have no room in the police force. Police does not need these kinds of policemen,” Nicolaou said.
He added that police have not yet received the case file allowing them to review the matter on suspending the policemen in question. He will be briefed by the chief who is expected to watch the whole two and a half hour footage.
During the meeting they also discussed police members that exceeded the permitted 42 days sick leave, overtime compensation and pending legislation at the House Finance Committee on tipping special constables.
On state radio, the blame game continued to play out as to why the policemen had not been suspended since February 2014, when the incident was first reported. The man was arrested on February 11 for refusing to consent to a search by the drug squad and attacking a colleague of the two officers seen in the video.
On February 14 2014, police watchdog IAIACAP informed the police that it had received a complaint from the man, who claimed the officers had used excessive and undue force on him. At this point, police spokesman Andreas Angelides said, the excessive force case was out of the police’s hands, as the law precludes it from interfering in any way with the independent agency’s work.
But IAIACAP head Andreas Spyridakis countered that police had four or five days to suspend the policemen until the watchdog began investigating the case. In the course of investigating, he said, the agency itself did not recommend their suspension because it had no impact on their investigation.
The watchdog’s investigation was concluded on May 19,2015, when the state’s Legal Service received the agency’s final report.
Leonidas Papaspirou, the criminal investigator assigned to the case, informed the officers of the charges facing them on Friday, and they declined to respond before consulting with their lawyer.
Cyprus Police Association leader Andreas Symeou has come under fire for his statements which include among others, that although he does not condone the violence exercised in the video, people should bear in mind the psychological state of the officers at the time.
He was referring to the fact that they had just heard a colleague of theirs was taken to hospital after the 26-year-old attacked him with a penknife during the scuffle following his arrest on February 11. But according to the court ruling, which handed him a suspended sentence of 18 months in jail, the young man had been hit on the head with handcuffs prior to retaliating.
After the fight, the man shut himself in a cell where the scenes shown in the video played out – in which one of the two officers beat him senseless with a baton.
By Andria Kades