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Complex procedure to get murder suspects back from the north

Mehmet Akpinar and Sali Ahmet (right)

With police on both sides of the divide unable to cooperate officially, and communication limited to a bicommunal technical committee, executing the arrest warrants for the two men in the north wanted for the Ayia Napa murder of Briton George Low has become increasingly complicated.

“A request for the ‘handing over’ of the suspects has been put through,” said a source close to the joint contact group, which works with the UN bicommunal technical committee on crime and criminal matters. The committee was set up in 2008 so that both sides could cooperate on issues such as money laundering, illegal immigration, trafficking in human beings and arms and drugs trafficking.

“The usual procedure, if the request is accepted is for the suspects to be handed back through the UN,” the source explained on Monday, stressing this was not an extradition procedure.

The two men, Mehmet Akpinar, 22, and Ahmed Salih, 43, were captured in Kyrenia on Friday by Turkish Cypriot police and brought before a north Nicosia court on Saturday for a remand hearing which centred not on the August 14 murder, but their illegal violation of a military area, a charge levelled at people crossing into the north by means other than a checkpoint.

It is important to note that neither of the two, who are due to appear in court again on Tuesday, is Turkish Cypriot, one is reportedly a Turk of Kurdish origin, the other a Bulgarian Turk.

“This is a bilateral matter which is not in the UN’s mandate to deal with,” UN spokesman Aleem Siddique told the Cyprus Mail on Monday, explaining it was a “criminal matter between the two sides”.

“The [bicommunal] technical committee plays a role,” a source close to the government told the Cyprus Mail. “The government was in contact from the start, through the sub-committee which deals with these types of issues, and was exchanging information.”

Another scenario being discussed as a ‘solution’ to the dilemma would be the suspects being ‘deported’ to Turkey, which has an ‘agreement’ with the north. Their extradition could then be requested by the British authorities.

Hakki Onen, the Turkish Cypriot co-chairman of the technical committee was quoted by Turkish Cypriot website Star Kibris on Sunday as saying another possibility would be to try the two men in the north.

But the suspects being tried in an unrecognised court in the north with evidence and statements supplied by the Republic’s police appear extremely unlikely given the political situation.

Friends of Low back in the UK have called on authorities on both sides to “work together” to solve the case.

“I don’t really know too much about the politics side of it. But we’re just hoping they are going to help and work together and get what’s right,” Jason Woods told the BBC on Monday.

Low from Dartford, in Kent, and his friend Ben Joseph Robert Barker were walking along Grigori Afxentiou Street at around 3.20am on Sunday, August 14 when they were attacked by two men, armed with knives, who then fled in different directions.

Police issued the arrest warrants against Akpinar and Salih based on a statement given by a third suspect, Koulla Anastasiou, 48. Anastasiou said she lived with Akpinar in her Kamares home in Larnaca and aided in his escape to the north.

Low suffered a fatal blow to his neck, which severed his carotid artery. Barker was stabbed four times in the back, but survived.

Helen Low, the victim’s mother has expressed the need of her family to see justice done following reports the two suspects had been arrested.

“We have not heard anything official from CID, but we are aware of the reports and are overjoyed,” said 47-year-old Mrs Low, welcoming the arrest. “We just want justice for George and Ben, who has been left traumatised by all this. We want justice for them both and will now have to wait.”

Low said the body of her son had still not been flown back to the UK to allow preparations for his funeral to go ahead.

She said his death had devastated her, her husband, postman Martyn, 55, and their children Wesley, Laura, Oliver and Millie.



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