Prison staff who are members of the Pasydy union on Tuesday threw their support behind suspended colleagues at the Nicosia central prison who were relieved of duties following the death of an inmate last week.
“The branch expresses its sympathy and collegial support and solidarity to its colleagues who are suspended for the purpose of the investigation that has been ordered and is ongoing,” it said.
Ten people working at the prison have been suspended after 41-year-old Tansu Cidan was beaten to death last Thursday.
Justice Minister Stephie Dracou said she met central prisons director Anna Aristotelous on Monday morning – leading to a request that six prison guards be suspended, one of them a sergeant.
“A request was made for an investigation into possible disciplinary offences, I will also appoint an investigating officer,” Dracou told reporters.
Aristotelous added that disciplinary action will be taken against four other prison guards for matters not immediately related to the murder, raising the total suspended to ten.
The union leaders clarified that suspension does not mean guilt and stressed that under no circumstances will victimisation of staff be accepted for responsibilities that may not belong to them.
“Within the framework of the investigation, we would like to believe that the great difficulties that the staff of the prison department has to face both in terms of overcrowding of prisoners and in terms of understaffing will become apparent. Understaffing that de facto leads to fatigue of the staff with all the negative consequences and all the adverse consequences,” it added.
Pasydy will request a meeting with prison management to discuss the circumstances surrounding the prisoner’s death and about the suspensions.
At the same time, it called for the immediate resolution of the problem of understaffing.
“We want to assure both suspended colleagues and their families that we will stand by this ordeal they are going through and we hope that the investigation will end quickly so that they can return to work. To this end, we appeal to everyone to show full respect for the presumption of innocence, as should be the case in any democratic and well-governed society, and we look forward to the swift conclusion of the ongoing investigations,” Pasydy concluded.
Last month prison workers from the Isotita union went on an indefinite strike over working conditions and pay although they called it off after the President intervened.