By George Psyllides
The search for those who attacked Turkish Cypriots on Monday while pupils were out on the streets of Nicosia to protest the unilateral declaration of the breakaway state continued on Tuesday, as the justice minister ordered a probe into claims that police officers may have not conducted themselves properly during and after the incidents.
Reports said members of far right group ELAM were involved in the incidents, in which two Turkish Cypriots were injured and cars were damaged.
ELAM has denied any involvement.
The authorities have questioned numerous people and footage from security cameras in the area were being examined in a bid to identify the perpetrators.
“The incidents will be fully investigated and our aim is to locate the people and bring them before court,” Ionas Nicolaou said.
“Our effort is to give a clear message to all these people who display such behaviour that similar actions will not be tolerated in the future,” he said.
Due to the seriousness of the situation, the investigation has been taken over by the central criminal investigation department and not area police stations.
“Such actions do not help our effort for our country’s reunification,” the minister said. “On the contrary, the serve the interests and objectives of all those who want to keep our people segregated and our country divided,” Nicolaou said.
The minister said instructions have also been given for a probe into charges that officers had not conducted themselves properly during and after the incidents.
One Turkish Cypriot involved in one of the incidents said that an officer stood by while they were attacked by an angry mob of pupils. There were also claims that police had not been helpful and that they advised Turkish Cypriots to stay away from the south between November 15 and November 20.
“In addition, we are investigating reports relating to the behaviour of the members of the police and especially those who told Turkish Cypriots to avoid coming to the government controlled areas, as well as whether officers just stood and watched the incidents without reacting,” the minister said. “Such behaviour from members of the force is unacceptable and rest assured that if there is any responsibility it will be assigned.”
Police said the incidents happened between 11am and 1pm. The first one took place on the junction known as the Milano traffic lights (Prodromou Street) in Engomi.
Pupils attacked a car with Turkish Cypriot plates but the driver escaped uninjured. He did not want to file a complaint and was escorted by police to the Ayios Dhometios crossing.The second incident took place nearby on Hytron Street, near the Nicosia district office.
A father and a son were attacked inside their car by a group of pupils throwing stones. The father was injured and the car was damaged police said.
The third case happened on Griva Dighenis Avenue. A Turkish Cypriot suffered injury to the eye following an attack by pupils.
The violence was condemned by ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou who announced that she has launched an investigation in her capacity as the island’s authority against discrimination.
“It is obvious that yesterday’s (Monday’s) attacks bear all the hallmarks of hate crimes, that is, crimes committed against people, not because of their individual stance or behaviour, but due to enmity and prejudice directed at their racial, ethnic, and religious identity,” Savvidou said.
She added: “They constitute blind and unprovoked hits, often organised and connected to the action of extremist groups that target diversity.”