The supreme court on Thursday handed down suspended two-month jail sentences and €3,000 fines to two women found guilty of racially assaulting a Russian woman in a Larnaca parking lot in 2019, an incident that was recorded and uploaded online.
The two Greek Cypriot women had been fined €750 by the Larnaca district court for the October 5, 2019, incident.
The state filed an appeal that was upheld by the supreme court, which noted that the district court had “failed to attribute the due, or any significance, to the motive of prejudice, which transforms common or basic offences of the Penal Code to hate crimes. This is the essence of the case.”
The women, aged 39 and 32, were recorded by Svetlana Zaitseva using racial slurs, derogatory language, and pushing and spitting at her during the incident.
Zaitseva said the incident was prompted when she recorded the women’s car hit a parked car and trying to flee the scene when they thought no one was looking.
The video shows at least two women shouting at the person recording on the phone. One is calling her a “whore” and telling her to go back to her country.
“Come to my home to clean the windows,” she added, while firing off expletives in both Greek and English.
“Go to the cabaret and dance,” she added, mocking the Russian woman by dancing around.
She also mocked her accent while on the phone to another person and kept referring to her as Romanian.
A second Cypriot woman threatened to take the Russian woman to court.
The argument continued even when a security guard arrived. Zaitseva told him she saw the car with the Cypriot women hit another and keep moving, so she decided to take a photo of it after telling them to stop.
Zaitseva uploaded the recording of the incident onto social media. Also captured on the video in the company of the two women, was another woman and two persons under the age of 18.
The supreme court stressed that despite the defendants’ “unbridled vulgarity and vehement prejudice” it had not been an organised case of inciting hate or violence.
It argued however, that the penalty handed down by the district court was “extremely soft”.
“The defendants’ actions constituted displays of hate crimes and not just simple violations of the Penal Code, something that completely escaped the attention of” the district court.
The district court also erred by considering that the complainant had only been verbally abused and that the defendants had not used physical violence, the supreme court said.
Based on the facts, she had been attacked by both, including being spat at by the second defendant.
The court rejected the defence’s argument that the defendants had reacted because Zaitzeva had been recording them.
“It was without a doubt racist. “… it was a relentless racist onslaught.”