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Prison director asks to be removed in wake of second probe (Updated)

Prisoner governor Anna Aristotelous

Central prisons director Anna Aristotelous and the unit’s senior officer Athina Demetriou have asked to be transferred from their positions – a day after the deputy attorney general announced an investigation into the prisons.

They have asked to be moved after the completion of the two investigations which are now underway – regardless of their outcome. Their statements prompted George Savvides, the attorney general, to reaffirm that the legal services act solely in the public interest – regardless of whom may agree or disagree with its actions.

The women’s announcement, communicated by their lawyers – Giorgos Triantafillides and Pambos Ioannides, also noted that they cannot rule out submitting their resignation from the civil service.

The lawyers also argued that it would be more appropriate for the second investigation to have been launched after the conclusion of the first.

The first investigation, which was announced last month, is being carried out by lawyer Achilleas Emilianides – who is to delve into allegations made by Aristotelous.

The other, announced just yesterday, will see a team appointed by the deputy attorney general investigate allegations of drug and mobile phone use in prison.

The first investigation, ordered by the attorney general, is much narrower in its scope and focuses on allegations made by Aristotelous; that a senior police officer was colluding with an inmate to secure damaging material of her – in an attempt to oust her from the position.

The second case was deemed necessary after the courts found that a man behind bars – serving life sentences for murder – was the ringleader of two attempted murder attacks, having used a mobile phone while in prison to organise crime.

The deputy attorney general’s office also cited “recent reports” which allege rampant drug use inside the prisons.

The lawyers on Thursday expressed their deep concern over that final point – stating that the Sigma report on drug use in prison contained evidence and material which pertains to the first investigation.

They explained that it could complicate and impede the first investigation, as photographs published by the network were submitted as evidence on which Aristotelous’ claims were partly based upon.

The two women’s lawyers noted that their clients submitted that evidence to the independently appointed investigator.

But the attorney-general told reporters later in the day that the decision to open a second investigation into the prisons was deemed necessary following recent revelations, and the decision was taken in consultation with Emilianides.

Savvides explained that his office did not deem one investigation to impede the other and neither was there a targeting of any specific persons in the second investigation – saying that there was a need to uncover certain issues.

Savvides sought to further assuage concerns that the deputy attorney-general may have acted out of line, stating that he assumed the responsibility to call for an investigation during his superior’s absence abroad – but that the decision was taken after also having consulted his chief.

The attorney-general added that in both circumstances his office acted swiftly and decisively.

Aristotelous did not report the case to the police but instead went to the attorney general and the justice minister, explaining that the police cannot investigate themselves.

Justice Minister Stephie Dracou announced earlier this month that the senior police officer who is facing the allegations is to be suspended until September 5.

There have been claims that alleged illegalities – drug and phone use, among others – continued long after Aristotelous took charge of the prisons.

Both Aristotelous and Demetriou have worked at the prison for eight years.

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