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Probe into police brutality accusations, many injured, protest organisers say (Update2)

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Police using water cannon on protesters along Nicosia's Makarios avenue on Saturday

Police chief Stelios Papatheodorou will ask the independent authority for the investigation of complaints against the police (Aadipa) to probe whether officers exerted excessive or disproportionate violence during the protest in Nicosia on Saturday afternoon, it was announced on Sunday.

Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis said, however, that judging from what she saw, “the required proportionality seems to be missing.”

In the meantime, one woman, 25, who was hit to the face by the water the police water cannon hurled during the protest, risks permanent eyesight damage, the organisers said on Sunday.

According to a police statement, Papatheodorou was to send a letter to the chairman of the independent committee within the day.

Yiolitis also said later in a statement that she has agreed with the police chief to call on Aadipa to launch a probe into the matter. The minister added that she has also requested a report to see what instructions were given by the police leadership to members of the force who were on duty during the protest.

Yiolitis also said that she had made clear to the police leadership when she assumed her duty as minister that its members should not use violent means and that the use of force should be the last resort, for self-defence and only to the minimum necessary degree and only if the other means remain ineffective or provide no prospects to achieve the intended result.

Aadipa said after an extraordinary meeting on Sunday that it would launch a probe into the matter and would request the consent of the attorney-general for the appointment of criminal investigators, as provided by law.

Eleven people were arrested during the protest for assaulting a police officer, resistance to arrest and rioting. Police also issued six fines for violation of the measures against the spread of coronavirus.

Police have been under fire for using excessive force to break up a protest that took place in Nicosia on Saturday afternoon.

Around 300 to 400 people set off from Kolokasis park in the old part of Nicosia with the aim of marching to Eleftheria Square but police had tried to block them and force them to disperse.

Protesters reported police violence and the use of tear gas on some occasions while photos circulated on social media show people bleeding or injured with claims they were beaten by officers.

The organisers of the march said many people were injured by the “police brutality” and were taken to hospital. Among them, they said, was a 25-year-old woman who now risks permanent eyesight damage after being hit to the face by the water hurled by the water cannon. Some of the organisers called on all people who were injured or received medical treatment after the police attacks to report it to them so that they can refer them to lawyers for legal advice.

A water cannon truck patrolled the streets and was later used on Makarios Avenue to stop people from going any further.

Most parties accused police of exerting unjustified and excessive force.

Main opposition Akel called for Yiolitis’ resignation. The party said it would take the issue to parliament, both for the orders the government gave to the police during Saturday’s protest “and for the ongoing unconstitutional ban on demonstrations.”

The ‘ENOUGH!’ protest that was organised by a large number of groups and organisations, mainly left-wing, was against “state authoritarianism” and censorship of anti-establishment views but also the “failed management of the pandemic”. They said they represent workers, the unemployed, students, artists, athletes and sports fans.

Among the organisers were Accept LQBTI Cyprus, Left Movement – We want federation, Antifa leukosa, Antifa Aradippou, Dromos Antifascist Collective, Barco Pirata Collective, Cyprus Natural Coastline, Labour Democracy, Fabrika KollektiV, PEO Theatre Artists, Movement against Foreclosures, the Cypriotism Movement, New Internationalist Left, Initiative Against the Fascist Threat and 269life Animal Liberation Cyprus.

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Source: Cyprus News Agency