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Late minister’s family sues Republic for Mari case jail death

Costas Papacostas died in 2015

The family of the late former defence minister Costas Papacostas, who died in 2015 while serving a five-year jail term for manslaughter over the 2011 Mari blast, has sued the Republic and the attorney-general over the conditions of his detention and death, it emerged on Wednesday.

Papacostas, the only government official convicted over the state’s failure to store safely 98 containers of munitions seized from an Iran-bound ship in 2009, maintained his innocence until the end of his life.

The containers were kept in an open space in the Evangelos Florakis naval base for two years before exploding on July 11, 2011 leading to the death of 13 navy personnel and civilians.

The lawsuit, in which the family demands damages of €0.5 million, revolves around the state’s refusal to accommodate Papacostas’ illness, which required his admission to the Nicosia general hospital throughout his sentence, by granting him certain liberties such as the right to take daily strolls outside the hospital.

The family claims the former minister’s human rights, as protected by the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Union’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, were violated during his detention.

According to the lawsuit, Papacostas’ “right to life” was violated, since he was subjected to “inhuman and degrading treatment”.

The family also claims that the defendants violated their legal obligations and were negligent in executing them, thus entitling them to damages.

The lawsuit has been filed by the law firms of Lellos Demetriades and Christofi and Associates.

In a statement after Papacostas’ death in September 2015, the family warned it would go after those who they said had abetted the late minister’s death.

It also announced that it would shed light on everything that took place behind the scenes and led to his death, which, it claimed, is “tantamount to political assassination” by all involved.

Papacostas was forced to serve his sentence in his hospital room for two years, “even though [the state] was aware that this worsened his condition and his demise was simply a matter of time”.

In his autobiography, published posthumously, Papacostas professes his innocence and laid the blame for the mishandling of the cargo squarely on a National Guard officer, a munitions expert, who, the minister claims, repeatedly advised him that keeping the containers in open space at the naval base was safe.

He also expressed bitterness at former President Demetris Christofias, who appointed him to the defence ministry, for abandoning him and looking out for himself only while letting his old friend take the fall.

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