The police said on Wednesday it will be launching an investigation into the leaking of footage from the Nicosia central prisons where a guard is shown to be assaulted by one or two inmates.
“Deputy police chief Kypros Michaelides has ordered an investigation to determine under which circumstances, and by whom, the leak occurred,” a police statement read.
The video – CCTV footage from the central prisons – was made public by Akel MP Irini Charalambidou during Wednesday’s session of the House ethics committee.
The episode took place on September 14, 2016.
In the almost 25-minute long video, the incident starts just after the one-minute mark.
A guard is seen walking alongside two inmates. Words are exchanged, and at one point the guard and one of the men start pushing and shoving each other, eventually trading blows.
The guard is punched in the face, and collapses to the ground. He then tries to get up, but is too dazed, his legs give way and he drops to the ground again. The two inmates stand over him, but do nothing.
A few seconds later the guard manages to get back up on his feet, at which point a fellow guard is seen running to his aid. A couple of more guards arrive on the scene for backup.
While the injured guard is being helped away, next to him are seen the two inmates walking casually toward a doorway entrance. They do not appear to be challenged in any way by any of the guards.
Speaking in parliament, Charalambidou accused authorities of a cover-up.
She was therefore releasing the footage to the public.
The MP said she possessed correspondence with the chief of police where the latter admitted the incident had taken place.
It turns out that the inmate who assaulted the guard was later released and deported, even though at the time he was under investigation for causing grievous bodily harm.
“Did no one think to place him on the stop list?” Charalambidou asked.
The guard in question had filed a complaint with CID. He had sustained serious injuries to the face requiring surgery, which the state refused to pay for, alleged Charalambidou.
The Akel deputy laid into justice minister Ionas Nicolaou. According to her, the minister tried to wash his hands of the incident and had sought to shift all the responsibility onto the police.
“He [Nicolaou] is solely interested in his image,” she charged.
She said legislation aimed at reforming the penitentiary system has been gathering dust for three years.
The reforms were promised by the minister, but according to Charalambidou the bill in question has yet to be tabled by the government even though a team of experts had worked on it “day and night”.
“We believe in transparency and that certain people should be held accountable if corrective steps are to be taken. People should be aware of what is happening, they should know that some people are paying a high price for what goes on within the central prisons.”
In a statement following the reveal, the Prisons Department said the leaking of video from the prisons constitutes a criminal offence.
It said the release of the footage could jeopardise security at the prisons as it reveals the various gates and courtyards, while also showing the faces of guards and inmates “without their consent”.
Further, this action – the leak – may constitute interference with police investigations, the statement added.
“One justifiably wonders why the video is being made public at this time period, when the incident took place in 2016, that is, a year ago.
“The prisons perform a difficult task, and it must be respected that the prisons should not be used for political expediencies.”