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Cyprus

State appeals shoe factory verdict

Nicosia district court

The state has filed an appeal against a court decision late last year which found that government departments and a now-defunct shoe factory in Nicosia were inadvertently responsible for creating a ‘cancer cluster’ for people working there and living in the area.

The attorney-general lists 16 reasons for the appeal against the December 29, 2017 decision on the Astrasol case.

Costas Clerides said, however, that its progress depended on the state.

“The appeal was filed because of the deadline but whether it goes ahead will depend on the instructions of the ministries and services involved,” he told the Cyprus News Agency.

A class-action lawsuit had been filed against Sotiris, Maroula and Fivos Liasis, Astrasol ltd, the official receiver as liquidator of Liasis Shoelast Company Ltd, the attorney-general for the labour inspection and town planning departments, and the Latsia municipality.

They were headed by Theofanis Chrysanthou and Constantina Barka, the parents of 11-year-old Stavros who died of cancer.

In total, 21 people filed suits, claiming that for over 30 years Astrasol, based in Latsia, used dichloromethane R40 in processing its shoe soles, a chemical which has been classified as “likely to be carcinogenic in humans.”

The plaintiffs blame it for the different types of cancer that have struck former employees and residents near the area.

In its 171-page ruling the Nicosia district court said: “From 1976 to 2009, the systematic emission of toxic gas dichloromethane R40 which is potentially carcinogenic, created a cancer cluster in the area in question.”

The company closed down in 2009 due to financial troubles.

The court found that the attorney-general bears responsibility in the majority of the claims as the state’s responsibilities on monitoring pollution had been violated.

Among the reasons for the appeal, the attorney-general lists the court’s failure to apportion blame among the defendants, exclusion of testimony after the state was prevented from cross-examining plaintiffs, and reaching the wrong conclusions on several points including the labour ministry’s failure to terminate the factory’s operation and the town-planning department’s failure to initiate measures knowing Astrasol had no secured building permits for the particular manufacturing process.

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