Cyprus Mail

Disy, Diko leaders ‘trying to quash opposition to asphalt plant’

Demonstrators outside the presidential palace (Christos Theodorides)

The leaders of Disy and Diko, Averof Neophytou and Nicolas Papadopoulos respectively, were accused on Tuesday of political interference in trying to quash opposition to the planned construction of a controversial asphalt plant near Stavrovouni monastery.

Speaking on a live news programme on Tuesday, Giorgos Karapatakis, a lawyer representing Stavrovouni monastery, said Neophytou had called a representative of the protesting monks to a meeting in Nicosia on Monday and put him through an “inquisition” as to the monks’ persistent opposition to the project.

Responding to the accusation, Neophytou denied holding any meeting with any monk.

“The holy man I visited in the past few days was the priest in Giolou in Paphos on Sunday when I went to church,” Neophytou said.

Meanwhile, Karapatakis said he has also been made aware of the fact that Papadopoulos had previously contacted a Diko municipal councillor from the Pyrga community, asking him to support the construction of the plant as he is personal friends with the construction company. A Diko official denied this claim later on Tuesday.

The contract for the asphalt production and recycling factory has been awarded to Iacovou Bros, one of the largest contractors on the island. Critics say it’s well known the company has political ties.

“Personal friendships have come to clash with the public good, which should be guiding principle of our actions,” Karapatakis said.

President Nicos Anastasiades was also at the forefront of bribery allegations on Monday when claims emerged that he had personally tried to “buy out” activists opposed to the planned construction of the asphalt plant.

The claims were dismissed by the deputy government spokesperson Klelia Vasiliou, who tweeted that “the President of the Republic, during a meeting with the Holy Monastery of Stavrovouni… simply made reference to compensatory measures which could be taken to benefit the vicinity, wishing to mitigate concerns over possible degradation of the area.”

Speaking on the same live news programme on Monday, Karapatakis confirmed that during a prior meeting between activists and the president, the latter advised them to take money being offered as compensation in exchange for lifting their opposition to the project.

The compensation sum offered by the construction company, in the millions according to Karapatakis, would include the restoration of roads and nature, but also a large donation to the Stavrovouni monastery.

The lawyer also alleged that “economic interest groups” in the area “reported” the activists to the Archbishop as well as to the chief of police.

Moreover, Karapatakis claimed that government ministers – whom he did not name – have contacted the monks via third parties, letting the activists know they are sorry but that they are obliged to implement the political decision to allow the factory despite this going against their own conscience.

The department of environment has green-lit the construction of the plant, arguing that it will be located within the quarry zone and thus violates no laws.

But local action groups say the plant would be situated only 2km from the Pyrga and Kornos communities and from Stavrovouni monastery, as well as just a few metres away from the Natura 2000 protected area.

The groups further claim that the two communities of Pyrga and Kornos show increased incidence of cancer.

They say air pollution will only worsen with the proposed plant, while the consequences of the thousands of tonnes of waste that are dumped in the quarry zone, which is an area of richly stocked aquifers, are still unclear.

More than 12,500 signatures have been collected in a petition against the plant.

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