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Cyprus

AG seeks broader access to information

The AG’s request concerns written communications like text messages, chats, and emails

The attorney-general urged lawmakers on Wednesday to approve a bill regulating access to written communications in a bid to enable authorities to collect material that would be acceptable in court.

Speaking before the House Legal Affairs Committee, Costas Clerides said the material would contribute to the ongoing investigation into the collapse of the economy, as he sought to reassure MPs that there was no risk of abuse since a court order would be necessary for the seizure.

The AG’s request concerns written communications like text messages, chats, and emails.

Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou asked MPs to approve the bill, possibly during the next plenum.

Nicolaou said the bill only regulated written communications and that his ministry was preparing legislation that will afford comprehensive coverage of the matter.

MPs however appeared unconvinced, expressing reservations about the broad scope of the bill.

Committee chairman Soteris Sampson said MPs wanted safeguards to ensure the provisions covered only financial crime and did not extend to all members of the public.

The committee asked the ministry and the Law Service to submit proposals to allay the MPs concerns.

Sampson said the court order would allow authorities to collect data in real time and also search any means of written communication that were already seized or were going to be seized.

AKEL MP Aristos Damianou said a change in the law would not affect a “handful of people” but the entire society.

Damianou said lifting confidentiality should concern and define specific offences.

As is, the government’s proposal includes a wide range of offences – in essence exempting nothing – Damianou said.

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