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Minister suspends officer pending investigation of Aristotelous’ claims (Update 3)

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Inmates, their families and prison wardens staged a protest on expressing their solidarity with Aristotelous

The senior police officer, who allegedly colluded with an inmate to damage the reputation of the central prisons director Anna Aristotelous, was on Wednesday suspended until July 20.

Justice Minister Stefi Drakou had expected to meet the senior ranking officer of the drug squad in person on Wednesday, to discuss his position about his pending suspension, but he chose to send an email.

A few hours later, Drakou issued an announcement saying she decided to suspend him until July 20 this year.

The period also sets the timeframe for the completion of the criminal investigation by the independent criminal investigator “with the aim to ensure the integrity and effectiveness of the investigation”.

In her decision, the minister took into account the response of the senior officer, as well as the evidence before her and the criteria set out in case law.

On Monday he was given two days to respond to the allegations before Drakou made her final decision on his possible suspension.

“I will listen to him carefully before taking a decision on the matter,” said Drakou, who earlier on Wednesday met the Greek Justice Minister Costas Tsiaras.

Meanwhile, two top-ranking government officials are expected to be questioned by lawyer Achilleas Emilianides, who was appointed by Attorney-general to investigate the case.

The allegations hit the news last Friday, after Aristotelous told Politis newspaper she had evidence that a senior drug squad officer tried to obtain private video footage of her with the help of a convict serving a long sentence.

The story dominated the news since, with one newspaper claiming that President Anastasiades and the attorney-general Giorgos Savvides were aware of the allegations long before they were made public.

Government spokesman Marios Pelekanos said the president was aware there were disputes between Aristotelous and the police but had no knowledge of the specific case. Savvides made no such denial.

“The president knew of the ongoing issues regarding the lack of cooperation between the central prisons management and the police force,” said Pelekanos.

“However, he first heard of the potential video footage claims last week, when the news broke,” Pelekanos said, adding that the government was carefully looking into the matter.

Aristotelous, on Monday, filed a formal complaint, through her lawyers, against the senior police officer. On the same day, prisoners, former prisoners and prison staff staged a demonstration in her support at the prisons.

“My lawyers have hand-delivered my complaints to the attorney-general, alongside all of the relevant evidence regarding the actions of a senior officer that were intended to harm me, and which we believe constitute a blatant act of corruption, more so because they were committed by a member of the police,” Aristotelous told reporters after the demonstration.

“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”.

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