Activists blocked from using the Ledra street crossing point by motorcyclists holding an event to honour Tasos Isaac and Solomos Solomou, who were killed by Turkish occupying forces in the Dherynia buffer zone in August 1996, on Monday sent a letter to Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou requesting that he respond whether this was legal.
In the letter, which was copied to the chief of police, the interior minister and the local Representation of the EU Commission, and released to the media, bicommunal peace group Unite Cyprus Now said the motorcyclists blocked a delegation that tried to use the Ledra crossing point on Saturday morning.
“They blocked every access to the checkpoint, preventing people from crossing for more than two hours,” the letter said.
The bikers, according to the group, told everyone who approached that the crossing point was closed and that they couldn’t cross.
“A number of police officers were simply standing behind them, repeating that crossing was not allowed because of the event,” the letter said.
“When we asked the police officers whether the checkpoint had closed on instructions of the government authorities, they responded that the checkpoint had closed in respect of the event.”
Citing the Green Line Regulation – European Council regulation 866/2004 – Unite Cyprus Now said the crossing of persons to and from the areas under the effective control of government of the Republic of Cyprus is “a right guaranteed for all Cypriot and EU citizens”.
“Given that the authorities tasked with controls at the checkpoints are the Civil Registry and Migration Department and the Police, we would like to ask you on which legal authority did a group of citizens block the crossing for more than two hours?” the activists asked Nicolaou.
While the group respects everyone’s right to demonstrate peacefully, it noted, “we believe that nobody has the right or the authority to prevents other citizens from exercising their legal rights and seizing power from the authorities”.
“We would therefore request that you inform us whether you consider that a group of citizens forcefully blocking the crossing were acting legally and what your intentions are in case this happens again in the future,” Unite Cyprus Now asked.
“Finally, we would appreciate your response as to why no measures were taken by police so that the event could take place at a small distance from the checkpoint and thus allow citizens to practice their legal right to cross.”
In what has become an annual staple, the riders’ closing of crossing points in Nicosia had prompted complaints from many people.
Isaac’s mother, daughter, and sister also took part in the event, which started from Paphos on Friday and ended at Dherynia on Sunday.
“The aim is to unite the people honouring the two heroes,” Andreas Pettemerides, a representative of the initiative said.
People who were denied access to the Ledra street crossing point asked police officers why they allowed the closure, but were told that they were obeying orders.