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Emily Yiolitis resigns as justice minister (Update 2)

Υπουργός Δικαιοσύνης – Δηλώσεις σ
Emily Yiolitis

By Elias Hazou and George Psyllides

After just a year in office, Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis has resigned, confirmed by the presidential palace during the day.

In a brief statement circulated to the media, the office of the presidency said only that President Nicos Anastasiades accepted Yiolitis’ resignation and that her position would be temporarily filled by Defence Minister Charalambos Petrides.

Quizzed by journalists about Yiolitis’ apparent disgruntlement later in the day, Anastasiades merely thanked the minister for her service, adding: “No further comment.”

He also demurred on the question of an upcoming mini-cabinet reshuffle, saying only that he’d take a decision next week before departing for Brussels to attend the European Council summit.

Earlier, reports surfaced that Yiolitis had quit on the back of continuing reports relating to a reshuffle that presented her as the “weakest link” in the administration, which rendered her presence at the ministry “unproductive and problematic.”

Yiolitis said she spoke to President Nicos Anastasiades on the phone over her concerns and to her surprise, was told that her presence in the cabinet hurt the government’s image and him personally.

According to her resignation letter, first published by Sigma, Anastasiades told her he had suffered political cost from her presence in the cabinet because of her relationship with his family and things that had been published in social media.

In her letter, Yiolitis denied being at fault, suggesting she was the one who was hurt at the end of the day because of her participation in the government.

“I entered politics without hindrances, with clean hands and stated financial ability, so that there would not be any shadows of cronyism or corruption. In fact, I was probably the one who suffered, heavily no less, by accepting to participate in a government that you know well was not held in high esteem by society as regards corruption and transparency.”

“Dear president, I consider as highly offensive, the lack of recognition of my work during these few months of my presence at the ministry, especially your view that I tarnish your image,” Yiolitis said.

She said she had taken over at an exceptionally difficult time, as the island was going through the Covid pandemic and was also faced with the problem of corruption.

During her time in office, she pushed through legislation that had been languishing at the ministry and set up special units in the police to investigate domestic violence and sexual crimes, she said.

Dozens of cases were investigated and sent to court “lifting the previous practice of affording ‘immunity’ to priests and politicians.”

The ministry also painstakingly prepared the key bills relating to the reform of justice and was in the process of preparing one on affirmative action and the legal recognition of gender, she added.

Concluding her missive, Yiolitis made it crystal clear she wanted out of the government, noting that she did “not wish to participate in any deliberations relating to my possible transfer to another post.”

Yiolitis’ short stint was perhaps marked by an incident where she reported to police a parody account of Twitter that mocked her and her father.

Last December, police searched the home of a female teacher from Larnaca saying their information indicated that the creator and administrator of the account was the woman in question.

Officers searched the home and seized all electronic devices, including those belonging to the woman’s two children. They were returned soon afterwards after finding nothing.

The woman denied any involvement, with the supreme court later cancelling the police search warrant used to enter her home.

At the time Yiolitis took flak over the perception she had abused her power.

Also on Thursday, Yiolitis’ Wikipedia page was updated to cite her resignation.

Yiolitis had been appointed justice minister on June 29, 2020, succeeding Giorgos Savvides, who took over as attorney-general.

 

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