AKEL and DIKO were correct to question President Anastasiades’ decision to appear as a defence witness in the trial of Rikkos Erotokritou and to urge him to re-consider. The president has no business acting as a character witness in a criminal case, for a man who was sacked as deputy Attorney-general, admitted to making false allegations against the Attorney-general and faces a host of criminal charges.
As both parties pointed out, Anastasiades’ duty was to safeguard the institution of the president of the Republic. This was no way to restore the battered confidence of people in institutions and political life, said AKEL deputy Aristos Damianou. He should “handle with great care issues that could compromise the presidency irreparably,” said Damianou, expressing the fear that the president’s appearance in court could spark a chain of “unforeseeable political consequences.”
Apart from the institution, an appearance in court as a defence witness would also cause harm to Anastasiades the politician, reminding everyone of the poor judgment he had shown in publicly siding with Erotokritou against Attorney-general Costas Clerides. He had accepted Erotokritou’s wild allegations against Clerides and demanded there was a criminal investigation against the latter. This led to a public fall-out and the exchange of some very angry words with Clerides.
Appearing now in court as a defence witness of the man at the heart of this row seems another big error of judgment, probably as big as appointing Erotokritou deputy AG. It will underline Anastasiades’ total lack of impartiality, but even worse it will have him defending a liar who had made a host of false allegations that brought the state legal services into disrepute, in order to save his skin. He should remember how irresponsibly Erotokritou had behaved a year ago, issuing threats and attempting to intimidate those who stood in his way.
This is not the type of behaviour the president should be condoning, by acting as the defence witness of the perpetrator, even if the latter is his best friend. As deputy AG, Erotokritou had betrayed the trust showed to him by the president who appointed him and then caused a political crisis with his wayward public antics, embarrassing the same president who, against all logic, still stood by him. And if it were up to the president, Erotokritou might not be on trial on criminal charges today.
Anastasiades, very unwisely, did plenty to help him, at a big personal cost, but there is nothing more he can do. He is not legally obliged to appear as a defence witness and should re-consider his decision, because he has nothing to gain and everything to lose by having been the defence witness of a man, who could be found guilty and end up in prison.