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Lawyer outraged as Supreme Court clears Astrasol of causing cancer in nearby residents

An earlier demonstration by Astrasol plaintiffs

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Wednesday that the Astrasol plant had no bearing on the high number of cancer cases seen in nearby residents is wrong, their lawyer Loucis Loucaides said.

According to the ruling, a causal link between the cancers and the operation of the plant was not proven, but Loucaides said an epidemiologist testified and reported that the factory emitted carcinogenic substances.

“These were all residents, next to the factory and they all got cancer. Is that a coincidence?” he asked.

He added that the defence did not explain in any medical way how these 50 people might otherwise have got cancer.

“Justice is interpreting laws based on law and logic,” Loucaides told Cyprus News Agency (CNA).

He was also highly critical both of the time it took the court to issue the judgment on  Wednesday and the fact that they relied on two or three cases from England which, he said, were not relevant to the specific facts.

The initial court decision in December 2017 found Astrasol shoe sole factory guilty of using an excessive amount of dichloromethane R40, a chemical classified as ‘likely to be carcinogenic in humans’.

The court had found that government services and the Astrasol shoe factory in Latsia were inadvertently liable for creating a cancer cluster for people working in and living near the factory.

Those found guilty were Astrasol itself; Fivos Liasis, one of its directors; and the state via the attorney-general (on behalf of the labour inspection department, the ministry of health and the town planning department).

The government departments in question were deemed responsible for allowing the factory to continue operating without the necessary permits, and for not taking steps to mitigate the toxic emissions.

Meanwhile, in February 2020, Nicosia District court denied the attorney general’s request for the government to delay paying plaintiffs who successfully sued the shoe factory for causing them health issues, pending an appeal to the supreme court.

The court awarded a combined €433,000 in damages to six plaintiffs. However, some of them have since passed away.

The class-action suit, involving 22 plaintiffs overall, was filed back in 2010.

Loucaides said they will now appeal at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) “which had previously annulled a decision of the Supreme Court”, and expressed confidence that the plaintiffs will be vindicated.

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