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Criminal investigators appointed to look into police behaviour at demo

file photo: protesters and activists clash with riot police during a rally against corruption and covid 19 restriction measures, in nicosia
File photo: Protesters and activists clash with riot police during the Feb 13 demo

Four criminal investigators were on Tuesday appointed by the independent authority investigating complaints against police to look into how heavy-handed officers’ behaviour was against protestors at Saturday’s demonstration against corruption.

The four are licensed and practicing attorneys.

Their appointment comes as rank-and-file officers assert they were acting according to orders from superiors, implying they are now being scapegoated.

Meanwhile, on Thursday the issue of police appearing to have resorted to excessive force to disperse demonstrators is expected to be brought up during a meeting between main opposition Akel leader and President Nicos Anastasiades to discuss the government’s overall handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Media speculated that Akel chief Andros Kyprianou will be pointing out the dissonance in government policy in, for instance, allowing shopping malls to operate – where hundreds can congregate indoors – but at the same time keeping in place a blanket ban on mass gatherings either indoors or outdoors.

In a statement ahead of the meeting, Akel threw down the gauntlet: “We have a government that dispatches the police to beat up citizens participating in peaceful protests, that launches unlawful raids at the homes of citizens looking to find who is satirising them, a government that has crossed the line set by the constitution, the rule of law and democracy itself.”

The party said the Anastasiades-Disy administration “has turned to authoritarianism, its only outlet in an attempt to deal with the wrath of citizens caused by its own dead-end policies.”

Akel added that the police violence on the streets of Nicosia will be tabled for discussion in parliament. Likewise to be discussed are “the total prohibition on demonstrations using the pandemic as the pretext.

“We do have a pandemic, we do need protective measures, but we also have a democracy.”

At the meeting with the president, Akel will additionally raise the matter of Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis, not only regarding her responsibility in terms of Saturday’s disturbances but also her conduct in relation to a fake Twitter account parodying her.

“The minister should have already resigned. But since it is obvious she does not comprehend what political finesse means so as to step down herself, the president must dismiss her. The responsibility now lies with him.”

Yiolitis took flak from almost all opposition parties on Monday during an appearance at the House human rights committee. She was slammed both for her handling of a Twitter spoof account mocking her – an affair dating back to December – as well as for the use of force by police on Saturday.

Police used water cannon, teargas and batons to scatter the crowd, protesting government corruption.

Demonstrations are banned for health and safety reasons though participants said people were wearing masks and trying to keep their distance.

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