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Cancer patients to protest, want shoe factory held to account

File photo of a previous demonstration by Astrasol plaintiffs

The Astrasol Cancer Patients Committee said on Friday they will be protesting a Supreme Court ruling that the factory had no bearing on the high number of cancer cases seen in nearby residents.

According to the committee’s announcement, they will be protesting on the site of the Astrasol factory in Latsia on Saturday from 10am.

The patients are calling on the guilty parties to be punished and hope justice will be served, they said.

“Everyone has a right to a healthy life,” the committee said in their announcement, inviting other human rights groups to join them.

Last week, the group’s lawyer, Loukis Loucaides, had criticised the court’s decision.

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

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

He added that the defence did not scientifically explain how these 50 people might otherwise have gotten ill.

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

He added that the group would be filing a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to have the  decision overturned.

The initial court decision in December 2017 found the 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 ruled that government authorities and Astrasol were inadvertently liable for creating a cancer cluster of people working and living in the factory’s vicinity.

Those found guilty were Astrasol, one of its directors, Fivos Liasis, 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 its operation without the required permits, and for not taking steps to mitigate its 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 in total, was filed back in 2010.

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