Judging that it was beyond its remit, the Administrative Court rejected an appeal by former police chief Michalis Papageorgiou against his dismissal in 2014, in the wake of a violent protest by far-right ELAM at an event being attended by former Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat in Limassol.
“I judge the decision by the president of the Republic to terminate the services of police chief Michael Papageorgiou, as being an act of government, and scrutiny of its legality is beyond the remit of the administrative court,” the court decision, which was published on Monday, said.
The former police chief had sought the annulment of President Nicos Anastasiades’ March 2014 decision to fire him over the force’s poor handling of the incident.
Anastasiades blamed Papageorgiou for not taking adequate precautions, wasting no time in sending the dismissal letter, which referred to a host of acts and omissions on the part of the police leadership.
Around 100 members ELAM had disrupted the event, shouting slogans and holding Greek flags outside the Panos Solomonides municipal cultural centre just before it was scheduled to start at 7pm.
They managed to enter the lobby and hurled a flare inside the hall. A Turkish Cypriot journalist who tried to take photos was slightly injured when scuffles broke out with police whose presence at the event was inadequate.
It was reported that although the Limassol police knew that ELAM would hold a protest, only six police officers were present. Papageorgiou admitted that when the tip about ELAM came in he was asleep and was informed about the incident after it took place.
The attorney-general, who represented the president, raised a preliminary objection, arguing that Papageorgiou’s dismissal had not been an administrative decision, but an act of government, which could not be regulated according to article 146 of the constitution.
Papageorgiou’s lawyers had argued that the legality of the contested decision should be examined because there had not been a prior investigation and he had not been granted the right to be heard, violating the principle of natural justice.
Papageorgiou wanted the decision for his termination reversed and was demanding up to €500,000 in compensation from Anastasiades.
The former chief maintained the contents of the dismissal letter sent by the president had nothing to do with reality and suggested that the president could have been misinformed.
“I wonder if such a thing has happened before in any other democratic country; a police chief gets the sack based on unfounded allegations, without any investigation or substantiation,” Papageorgiou had said at the time.