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Police chief and justice minister to meet over prison fracas 

By Stavros Nikolaou and Stefanos Messios

A meeting has been scheduled for next Monday between the chief of police and the justice minister after a clash at the Nicosia central prisons a week ago when police entered the facility to conduct searches among the convicts, causing confusion among prison staff and inmates

Thirteen members of the force from the CID and the police departments of Nicosia and Limassol, went to the central prisons with a search warrant to carry out cell checks on August 4.

Some of the prisoners, around seven, reportedly attacked the members of the force with sharp objects and broomsticks. No one was injured.

According to the department of prisons, the CID officers were to target specific individuals for a search but instead decided to search an entire wing. “Unfortunately, the search was never carried out because the prisoners reacted to the intention to have the entire wing investigated and not specific detainees,” the department said.

“Investigations should be carried out in co-operation with the prisons directorate in an appropriate manner, without targeting all detainees in the prison wing,” it said in an announcement. “Such actions undermine efforts to ensure the effective running of prisons.”

At the same time, the department said reports that the police officers were attacked with sharp objects were false. Also, when some of the prisoners did react, prison staff intervened, it added.

“The directorate of the prisons department from the first moment, and although they weren’t informed about the execution of the warrant, had fully cooperated with the head of the police team, indicating the appropriate way of executing the search warrants,” the department said.

The Cyprus Police Association in a statement, described the announcement of the prison department as inappropriate, saying the situation had been “chaotic”.

“Criminal activities are organised inside the prisons and we pretend that nothing is happening,” the association said.

Giving their version of events, they said that the police arrived at the prison to conduct the search at around 9.20pm on August 4 after obtaining a warrant from the Limassol court because they has credible information that prisoners in the particular wing had mobile phones, and drugs.

“Upon the arrival of the members of the police, there was a delay in entering, and although the search warrant was shown to the guard, he insisted on being given a photocopy of the warrant despite the provisions of the law,” the association said.

“As our members entered the wing, around seven detainees were out of their cells, waiting for the police with sharp objects. “When explanations were asked why the seven were out, the guard stated reasons of their personal needs,” it added.

The association called for an investigation.

Meanwhile, The Association of the Protection of Prisoners condemned police after the incident saying the officers had used “inhumane and aggressive tactics”.

“The use of bats and hoods by anonymous law enforcement agencies can only imply the threat of violence,” the association said, referring to police’s alleged methods during the searches.

The association had allegedly “…found that groups of police officers, including special forces members, wore hoods and wielded batons and pepper spray…” as they attempted to enter the cells of prisoners to conduct searches.

They added that “…the hooded police officers refused to identify themselves to management of the central prisons, insisting they would be kept anonymous, which correctly lead to a serious crackdown onto this militaristic invasion.”

The association said it was also informed that “some detainees were beaten during the investigations and that they had already filed complaints with the independent authority for the investigation of allegations and complaints against the police.”

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