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Justice minister receives damning prisons report, will ‘act accordingly’

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Justice Minister Stefi Dracou has received the report of the four-member committee appointed by the attorney-general to investigate possible offences related to the use of mobile phones and drugs at the Nicosia central prisons.

“I confirm that yesterday I received the report of the four-member committee chaired by the former judge of the Supreme Court Michalis Christodoulou,” Dracou said in a written statement.

“After the report has received a thorough study by the justice ministry, I will act accordingly and within the framework of my responsibilities,” the minister said.

On Friday, the attorney-general said management of the Nicosia central prisons was “neither adequate nor effective”, the facility was rife with drugs and criminal activity including witness intimidation both inside and outside the prison, leading to an “uncontrolled and extremely dangerous situation”.

The damning statement was issued after the case was filed with the Nicosia district court in connection with the murder of a Turkish Cypriot inmate, Tansu Cidan, found dead in his cell on October 27.

Citing the investigation ordered into the alleged widespread mobile phone and drug use in the prisons by four independent investigators that had been tasked with collecting testimony and data, the attorney-general said that it could now be confirmed that drugs and mobiles were widely trafficked in the prison, with the help of some guards.

“This in itself exposes the whole structure of the prison system to very serious risks that are causing reverberations in the entire criminal justice system. As a result, and based on undisputed facts, it is clear that the measures taken by the prison management are neither adequate nor effective,” the AG said.

“This leads us to an uncontrolled and extremely dangerous situation and creates risks to the safety and lives of people inside and outside the prison with serious implications for public safety and order.” It added that drastic measures needed to be taken.

As a result of the Cidan case being filed with the court, the attorney-general’s office said that they felt obliged to comment on the findings in the independent investigation, which had been ordered in July and turned in by head investigator Michalis Christodoulou in early November.

Meanwhile in a reaction to the statement made by the attorney-general’s office, Prisons Director Anna Aristotelous said that this was another attempt to “eat us alive”.

Issues with the prisons have been ongoing since mid-June when Aristotelous alleged that a senior police officer – later revealed to be drug squad, Ykan, chief Michalis Katsounotos – was colluding with an inmate to secure damaging footage of her and her deputy.

That led to a series of investigations.

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