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Cyprus

Court upholds ‘forced retirement’ of prison official blamed for letting ‘Al Capone’ escape  

The administrative court on Friday rejected an appeal by former acting central prisons director Michalis Hadjidemetriou against his forced retirement in 2014 after being convicted to two months in prison for dereliction of duty in connection with the escape of a lifer in 2008.

Hadjidemetriou was found guilty by the Nicosia district court of the criminal offences of negligence and abuse of power and sentenced to two months in prison. The decision was upheld by the Supreme Court.

Following his conviction, he was forced by the public service commission to retire in 2014. He appealed to the administrative court which upheld the initial decision.

Hadjidemetriou was found guilty because while he was the director of prisons he was deemed as responsible for the lawful detention of lifer Antonis Kitas, alias Al Capone, who escaped in December 2008 from a Nicosia private hospital in which he was taken for health reasons.

The court had ruled that Hadjidemetriou did not take all measures to ensure the safe detention of the lifer in the hospital.

According to the court ruling, Hadjidemetriou had deliberately failed to control the visits made to Kitas and as a result, he was receiving visits from various persons without any checks or restriction and deliberately did not ensure that the convict’s communications were controlled and conducted in a permissible manner.

Kitas was allowed to own a mobile phone and hold telephone communications without any control, the court said.

In addition, Hadjidemetriou was found guilty of deliberately not making sure that the lifer was kept under the required conditions and as a result, his wife was staying in the same room without any restrictions.

Kitas escaped from the private clinic, after being treated there for six months for gastric reflux. It later transpired that Kitas practically lived with his wife during his six-month stay.

He escaped through a window in the early hours of the morning in December 2008, while his guards were reportedly fast asleep.

A manhunt ensued, during which shots were fired and Kitas was injured but the convict still managed to get away.  He was eventually recaptured around a month later.

The justice minister and police chief at the time resigned as a result of the fiasco.



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