TWO police officers caught on tape beating up a man in a Polis Chrysochous holding cell in February 2014 were on Monday found guilty by the Paphos Criminal Court.
Panagiotis Heracleous and Karlos Dekermenzian were found guilty on two charges of causing grievous bodily harm and inflicting cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment with the aim of causing actual bodily harm.
They were acquitted of a charge of premeditated actions aiming at causing grievous bodily harm.
They will remain in custody until their sentencing on May 20.
The incident happened in Polis Chrysochous on February 10, 2014 but the video of the beating was published on social media in August 2015.
It shows the victim, Panayiotis Savvides, beaten by one of the officers repeatedly with a truncheon, beginning on camera and continuing off-camera for a longer period. The second officer looks on but later joins in with a few kicks while the man is on the ground.
The clip starts with Savvides sitting in a cell when two policemen approach him. He is sprayed in the face with what appears to be pepper spray and backs into a corner whereupon they enter the cell and one policeman violently and repeatedly attacks him with a truncheon.
The man had been arrested earlier that day after resisting a body search and although nothing illegal was found on him, he was taken to Polis station and detained for assaulting police officers.
He was led to the cell foyer and asked to hand over his personal items so they could lock him in a cell but he refused to co-operate and asked for medical care after which police tried to immobilise him using force.
Savvides reacted and got into a fight with two officers. At the same time, a penknife fell from the man’s pocket which he grabbed and used to attack one of the policemen. He then ran and locked himself in the cell where two other policemen then came in and beat him up.
The court rejected the defendants’ claim that they had exercised the necessary force to subdue Savvides so that they could search him. Their intention, the court said, was to punish the man for the behaviour he had exhibited earlier towards their colleagues.
During the period in question, the defendants, without having any legitimate justification, and disregarding the setting – they found Savvides seated, isolated, and restricted in a safe area – submitted him to a treatment of such form and intensity that there is no doubt it was tantamount to cruel, inhuman or humiliating behaviour or punishment, the court said.
“The continuous and merciless blows they inflicted – 40 in total – both upon entry into the secure facility he was isolated and restricted in, seated and calm, as well as the intimidation exercised by the two well-built defendants by feigning kicks while he was pinned on the ground” and other actions, leave no room for not including their behaviour among those classified as cruel, inhuman, or humiliating, the court said.
Referring to Savvides, the court said he gave a good impression on the witness stand, providing firm and convincing responses to the questions. He was positive and stable and left no doubts.
Savvides had no difficulty in recognising his errors in the way he reacted before the incident in question, the court said.
The court however questioned the testimony of one officer, a prosecution witness, who claimed that Savvides had been subdued with the help of the defendants.
Savvides had surrendered the penknife before the two defendants arrived at the police station, a fact known to the witness because it took place in his presence. Savvides was also under control in the registration area, a fact that the witness also knew, the court said.
The court judged that the witness clearly intended to distance himself, concluding that he, and another officer used as a prosecution witness, wanted to help their colleagues and were not telling the truth.
For assaulting the police officers, a separate trial found Savvides guilty but handed him an 18-month suspended sentence.