By Elias Hazou
The family of Costas Papacostas, who passed on Monday while under police guard at Nicosia General Hospital, have vowed to pursue all legal avenues, including abroad if necessary, to hold accountable those they see as responsible for the death of the former defence minister.
The relatives accuse Attorney-general Costas Clerides for not even responding to their repeated requests to pardon Papacostas, whose health was apparently deteriorating during his detainment at the hospital.
The Attorney-general is the official who recommends to the President a list of persons to be granted pardon.
As reported by Simerini, Papacostas’ family have three medical reports by doctors at Nicosia general. The reports (November 2013, December 2014 and April 2015) all note that Papacostas’ confinement to a hospital room was likely contributing to his worsening condition.
For example the first report noted a “steady deterioration of kidney function, which increases the likelihood of cardiovascular complications and, by extension, adverse consequences on his life.”
The reports warned that Papacostas suffered from high blood pressure, and that the pressures of being confined to a room contributed to this.
The last report, in April of this year, found a deterioration in kidney function and predicted that it might be necessary for Papacostas to undergo dialysis. His heart condition was also worsening.
Nicholas Papacostas, the deceased’s son, said they consider authorities to be ‘moral accessories’ to his father’s death. They are essentially claiming that the government let Papacostas die whereas this could have been prevented, had Papacostas been pardoned and allowed to be transferred to a more suitable environment.
The family say they will exhaust all legal means in Cyprus to bring those accountable to justice and, if unsuccessful here, they may eventually file recourse to the European Court of Human Rights.
It was not clear what line of legal argument they might be pursuing. The family’s lawyer, Efstathios Efstathiou, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Speaking to the Sigma television network a day earlier, Efstathiou said the President’s statement, shortly after Papacostas’ death, that he was willing to grant a pardon, was not good enough.
The President appeared to be suggesting that his hands were tied, as he had not received a recommendation from the Attorney-general to pardon Papacostas.
According to Efstathiou, it is common practice around the world to grant pardons to persons in grievous health, “even to dictators and criminals.”
In July 2013 Papacostas was found guilty of manslaughter for the 2011 Mari base incident and handed a five-year jail sentence. He was defence minister at the time of the explosion at the naval base.
Due to his failing health, he was immediately transferred to hospital. In December 2014, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal against the conviction and upheld the criminal court’s verdict.
In another twist, Popi Christoforou, who lost her twin sons at Mari, claims she had twice written to the President, asking that he grant Papacostas a pardon.
But her gesture came with strings attached.
“The pardon was ready, it was in the drawer. If only he [Papacostas] had taken certain steps. But he refused to name the persons under whose instructions he was acting [regarding the handling of the munitions at Mari].
“Until the very last, we were fighting for him, so that he might redeem himself, so that he could close all open accounts,” she told Sigma.