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Our View: Prison director overstepped her role by questioning AG

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

The Nicosia Central Prisons cannot stay out of the news. After a long period of positive reports, about happy prisoners participating in plays and concerts and other events organised by the director, a different version of what has been happening there has appeared.

During a criminal case brought against Dimitris Mamalikopoulos, who was serving five life sentences for four murders, the court found that the defendant had been issuing instructions from his prison cell, via mobile phone, to a man to commit murder in an Ayia Napa café. This led the attorney-general’s office to order an investigation on the use of mobile phones in prisons as these were being used by convicts to orchestrate crimes. Investigators, it was announced, would also look into reports of widespread drug use in the prisons.

It was astonishing that the director of the prisons, Anna Aristotelous and her assistant Athina Demetriou, instructed their lawyers to issue a statement questioning the wisdom of the investigation, as another investigation was currently underway, regarding allegations made by the director against a senior police officer. Is it up to the director of prisons to decide when an investigation is to be carried out and publicly question the decision of the attorney-general via her lawyer? She is a public employee, in charge of administering the prisons, who should show respect for the decisions of the state’s chief law officer.

Last month, Aristotelous claimed the senior police officer was in contact with a convict (via mobile phone) asking him to find compromising film footage of the director; an independent investigator has been looking into these allegations. Her lawyers claimed that the new investigation was linked to her allegations of police corruption – the implication was she was being targeted – and for this reason she and Demetriou would ask for a transfer from the prisons once both investigations were over. Was this fuss aimed at preventing a disciplinary investigation against her in the future, which is a possibility?

As public employees Aristotelous and Demetriou should have shown respect for the decision of the attorney-general, even if they believed it was mistaken. They should also have expressed at least a token of concern about the criminal court observation that a convict was using a mobile phone from his prison cell to direct a murder. Was this untrue? Their lawyers said nothing about it in their statement – as if it were a trivial matter – the only concern of which was to cast aspersions on the AG’s decision.

It is interesting to note that, Achilleas Emilianides, the lawyer in charge of the investigation into police corruption allegations, had been offered but declined to expand the scope of his investigation. He said the field of investigation was different. In other words, the investigations could be conducted concurrently, contrary to Aristotelous’ legal opinion.


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