An epidemiologist who spoke at Sunday’s demonstration, a protest held primarily against the expanded SafePass requirements, is being held by police for eight days.
He has not been charged but the Cyprus Mail was told by the police press office on Wednesday that he was arrested on suspicion of inciting people to violate decrees implemented to combat Sars-Cov-2.
The demonstration was attended by thousands outside the Presidential Palace in Nicosia but figures vary from 5,000 – according to the police – while many of those who attended claim numbers of anywhere between 10,000 and 20,000.
Associate professor of epidemiology and public health at the Open University of Cyprus Dr Elpidoforos Soteriades, who got his degree in epidemiology at Harvard, was arrested on Monday along with six others – while four in total have been arrested for inciting the public to violate the decrees.
The Cyprus Mail spoke with Soteriades’ lawyer on Wednesday, Yiannos Georgiades, who said that the police suspect his client of either being an organiser of the demonstration or an instigator.
Georgiades denies both claims, saying that Soteriades is innocent and has not committed any crime – stating that there is evidence that he was not an organiser and he has condemned the violence.
“In a democratic country that respects human rights and freedom of speech, his address on its own should never lead to an arrest,” he said.
A friend of Soteriades told the Cyprus Mail that he will testify to the police that he had invited the epidemiologist to attend the demonstration, but he was in no way an organiser.
For his part, Soteriades told the crowd on Sunday that: “I intensely note that the new measures by the government are unacceptable, they have absolutely no connection to the monitoring of the pandemic.
“Even young children understand that the government is using unethical means of blackmail to force people to get vaccinated whether they like it or not,” he continued.
“We call on the government to drop its blackmail measures because they violate the Nuremberg code… the dictatorial and blackmail measures shall not pass, we call on the government to respect the free and voluntary nature of vaccination.”
Soteriades also called for the government to dial back its divisiveness which he said was being used as a tool.
He concluded his speech in saying that: “Democracy, freedom, the light, truth and love are victorious and shall prevail.”
His speech lasted about ten minutes in total.
Soteriades has proved to be a divisive figure in the debate surrounding coronavirus restrictions. His supporters praise the epidemiologist for offering a wider scope on the debate surrounding the pandemic, while some of his detractors claim he is spreading dangerous misinformation.
Many of his opponents refer to comments the epidemiologist made last year in which he likened the dangers of Covid-19 to that of the flu, saying that the former is perhaps only slightly more dangerous – notably to those in older ages.
The demonstration on Sunday evening started peacefully – but with notable angst in the air, a witness told the newspaper. It was marred hours later by violence and destruction.
A group of attackers later broke into the Dias media group building that houses Sigma, attacked staff, set fire to cars in the parking lot and trashed the offices.
The attack drew widespread condemnation.