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Seven youths released after Limassol riot (Updated)

Photo: Free Times Media Ltd

A Limassol court on Thursday released seven youths arrested during a riot the previous evening after it found no proof linking them to the trouble, which has drawn broad condemnation.

The suspects, aged between 15 and 21, were detained at various locations around the town’s main coastal avenue during riots that saw five police officers injured and a patrol car set on fire.

Police said the 15-year-old also had 21 grammes of cannabis and a precision scale in his possession when he was arrested.

After a lengthy procedure, the court rejected a police request for the suspects to be held in remand, ordering their release.

Earlier, police said they were seeking two more people in connection with the trouble.

The trouble kicked off at around 7pm, during a protest against government measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, corruption, and 5G networks in the Enaerios area.

Police said at some point some 100 individuals who had apparently infiltrated the demonstration, peeled away, and started throwing stones, flares, and petrol bombs at police, and setting fire to rubbish bins.

“Police were forced to intervene to protect their fellow citizens,” spokesman Christos Andreou said.

He noted that the demonstration, which was peaceful, despite people not wearing any protective masks, had not received permission, nor had the organisers contacted the authorities beforehand in line with health decrees.

Acting on intelligence, police officers had been dispatched to the area, including members of the riot squad.

Five were injured during the trouble, two burned their hands while the rest had been hit by rocks.

One firefighter was also injured after he was hit on the forehead with a stone while the vehicle he was in was ambushed by the troublemakers.

Police said the mob wore hoods and ski masks but they nevertheless managed to arrest seven, aged 15, 17,19, two 20-year-olds and two 21-year-olds.

The suspects were arrested in the area around the embankment, Ayios Nicolaos and Enaerios.

The court decided the police did not have enough linking the suspects to the riot and so they were released.

Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis condemned the incident on Thursday, pledging there would be zero tolerance to such behaviours.

“Hoods, Molotovs, stones, flares do not tackle corruption or the pandemic. Zero tolerance of such criminal behaviour. My thoughts with the members of the police and fire service who needed medical treatment,” the minister said on Twitter.

Speaking on private Sigma television later in the day, Yiolitis said asylum seekers were part of the trouble.

“Personally, I am concerned by the age of the suspects and by the fact that some of the offenders are asylum seekers,” she said.

The Cyprus Mail learned later that two of the seven suspects were asylum seekers.

Limassol Mayor Nicos Nicolaides expressed concern over the trouble, calling on stakeholders to find tangible ways to deal with the problem.

In a statement, the mayor said the phenomena of violence and anti-social behaviour were becoming more and more common and solutions needed to be sought beyond words and declarations.

“The social causes must be found, whether they are social exclusion, unemployment, the general contempt of institutions, impunity, the rise in drug use, the existence of sources that foster antisocial behaviours, and all the things that trap and lead mainly young individuals to these self-destructive behaviours,” he said.

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