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Our View: Prison allegations have turned into public circus

Prisoner governor Anna Aristotelous

The allegations made by director of Nicosia Central Prison Anna Aristotelous against a senior-ranking police officer of the drug squad have completely dominated the news since the story broke last Friday. It has been the top story ever since, sparking accusations of corruption against the police as well of attempts at a cover-up by the legal authorities.

Even President Nicos Anastasiades was implicated, one newspaper alleging that he had known about what had happened but chose to do nothing. He dismissed this as fake news although the newspaper stuck to its story. On Tuesday, government spokesman Marios Pelekanos clarified that while the president knew of the difficulties in cooperation between the central prison and the police command, he was not aware of the specific case.

Attorney-general Giorgos Savvides, who had not denied being aware of the case before it was made public, appointed a criminal investigator to look into the allegations, while the police officer, who allegedly had contact with a convict, was to be suspended on Wednesday after being given two days to respond to the allegations by the justice minister, who is in charge of the police as well as the prisons.

The drug squad officer at the centre of the allegations has already been found guilty by the media, which have shown complete disregard for the principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ Aristotelous has helped in this regard by the way she went about making the matter public. Her statements to the media presumed guilt. “We are talking about a senior officer who did not hesitate to use his influence, abusing his power and no-one can question any such action during the investigation,” she said. She also declared that “it is not a simple case, but a blatant act of corruption, more so because it was committed by a member of the police.”

Aristotelous, according to a press report, threatened to resign if the policeman in question was not suspended once the investigation was ordered. Was she making the threat for added effect, despite knowing that a public official under criminal investigation would be suspended as a matter of course? Was the use of lawyers to file her complaint also for added effect? Was the director of the prison incapable of making a report to the attorney-general herself about a matter at the prison she was in charge of?

Although Aristotelous may have gone public to prevent a cover-up, she turned the matter into something of a public circus, the culmination of which was the demonstration of prisoners and prison wardens in a show of support for the director.

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