Cyprus Mail

State appeal filed in drug trafficking trial

Evidence in the case was destroyed in a courthouse fire in Nicosia earlier this year

By George Psyllides

The state has appealed the acquittal of two defendants who had been charged with drugs trafficking offences after the evidence in the case was destroyed in a courthouse fire earlier this year.

As the reasons for the appeal, the Legal Service listed improper enforcement of the law, wrongful exclusion of evidence, and irregularity in the process.

On August 1, the Nicosia criminal court acquitted two men arrested last year who faced 11 charges relating to possession and trafficking of seven kilos of cocaine and five kilos of cannabis.

The court ruled that the destruction of the drugs, which had been submitted by the prosecution as evidence during the trial and were in the custody of the court, deprived the defendants of the right to a fair trial

In its decision, the criminal court said presenting the evidence during the trial was impossible after February’s fire, but some of the prosecution witnesses based their testimony on photographs of the exhibits.

The destruction of the evidence was a key argument used by the defence in its effort to convince the court that the defendants had been deprived of the right to a fair trial, the decision said.

The court said the prosecution was not in any way responsible for the destruction of the evidence and in fact it had difficulties in presenting its case.

However, it added, the destruction resulted in establishing inequality of arms between the prosecution and the defence

Attorney-general Costas Clerides said at the time that the state planned to appeal on the grounds that under the circumstances and the timing, but also in light of the entire body of evidence and the other elements of the case, the destruction had not affected the rights of the defendants.

In its appeal, the state argues that the law was improperly enforced by the court, which did not evaluate correctly the facts before it and did not take into account the entire body of evidence.

The court “conducted selective evaluation or failed to assess the evidence before it, citing an unfair trial, and wrongly failed to adjudicate on the credibility of the prosecution witnesses as it ought to,” the appeal says.

The state also argues that the criminal court had wrongfully excluded evidence that alone, or combined with the rest of the evidence, “constituted proof of the components of the offences faced by the defendants.”

The Cyprus News Agency reported that the state was planning to file additional arguments soon.

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