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Cyprus

ECHR finds inadmissible a claim that former AG did not do enough to hold Christofias accountable for Mari

A CHARGE that former attorney-general Petros Clerides had not done enough to hold former President Demetris Christofias accountable for his involvement in the Mari naval blast six years ago has been deemed inadmissible by the European Court of Human Rights.

A statement by the legal services said the two sons and widow of Michael Herakleous, a naval officer who died in 2011 together with 12 other firemen and navy personnel in the blast at Evangelos Florakis naval base when 98 containers of munitions exploded, had taken the case to the ECHR.

Their grievance was that the independent investigation carried out by Polys Polyviou pointed the finger at Christofias, suggesting he was guilty of ordering to keep the munitions, which had been confiscated in 2009 from a Cyprus-flagged ship en route to Syria and left exposed to the elements for two years.

The ECHR decision outlines Polyviou’s findings which say “the president bore the greatest responsibility for the inadequacy, negligence and remissness that had been shown, and had failed to take care of or at least take basic measures to ensure the security of the citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, and in particular that of the soldiers and firemen in question.”

“The fate of the cargo had been decided by the executive, which, headed by the president, had completely failed to take the necessary measures to handle the matter, including keeping the cargo safe in Cyprus.”

Following the findings, families of the victims had called on former attorney-general Petros Clerides to lift Christofias’ immunity so he could be brought to court.

Although criminal proceedings were brought for six high ranking officials, Christofias was not one of them.

Nevertheless, the ECHR ruled that Polyviou’s “findings and recommendations were not binding. He could not determine or establish legal or criminal responsibility.”

“It is the Attorney-General, an independent officer, who decides whether there is enough evidence to justify criminal proceedings in respect of a particular person.”

Additionally, it is not the ECHR’s role to interpret the constitution and “decide whether, in the circumstances, the Attorney-General could or should have lifted the President’s immunity, opening the way to a police investigation.”

The court could not say that local authorities had “failed to conduct an effective investigation capable of leading to the establishment of the facts and identifying and, if appropriate, punishing those responsible.”

Clerides, who resigned from his post before he was set to retire, had received harsh criticism for his decision not to lift Christofias’ immunity – who to this day claims his innocence.

Former defence minister Costas Papacostas was sentenced to five years in jail in 2013 on charges of manslaughter. He was transferred to Nicosia general hospital under guard, citing serious health problems, and died while serving time.

Firemen Andreas Nicolaou and Charalambos Charalambous, and commander of the disaster response team Emak, Andreas Loizides, were found guilty of causing death due to reckless and dangerous acts and sentenced to two years each.

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