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Nicolaou lawyer says conditions for bringing ECHR case have been met

Thanasis Nicolaou whose body was discovered in a ditch in 2005
Thanasis Nicolaou

National guardsman Thanasis Nicolaou’s family is determined to open private criminal proceedings against those who they deem responsible for covering up his death in 2005, lawyer Christos Triantafyllides told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the attorney-general’s office announced that no evidence of criminal wrongdoing has come up in the case.

Following the announcement, Nicolaou’s mother said that her intention was to open private criminal proceedings and to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

“We know who these people were,” Triantafyllides said. “Three police officers were in charge of the investigation on Thanasis’ death at the time. The other responsible was the person appointed by the government to carry out the forensic examination.”

Triantafyllides also confirmed that the requirements necessary to bring the case to the ECHR have been met.

“A final decision from the local judiciary system is needed before a case can be taken to the ECHR,” the lawyer said.

He then added that in 2020, the ECHR accepted the family’s claim that the Cypriot authorities had failed to conduct sufficient investigations into Nicolaou’s death.

More specifically, the ECHR found that the investigation into the guardsman’s death had infringed Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Consequently, the European body awarded his family €35,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

“As a result of the ECHR’s ruling, the attorney-general’s office appointed two criminal investigators (Savvas Matsas, and Antonis Alexopoulos) and to shed light on the matter.

“However, this has only happened recently, way too late considering that Thanasis died in 2005. It was impossible for the two investigators to find out who killed him,” Triantafyllides said.

On Wednesday night, CyBC reported that President Nikos Christodoulides contacted Nicolaou’s mother and told her that the state would cover legal fees to take the case up in private courts.

Triantafyllides confirmed that the president contacted the guardsman’s mother, but added that his offer “was only intended as a special gesture of financial assistance to the family”.

“He did not say what the financial assistance should cover for the family and he did not specify whether the money offered are intended to cover legal fees,” the lawyer said, adding that he is not yet aware whether Nicolaou’s family has accepted Christodoulides’ financial help.

In statement to the media on Wednesday, Triantafyllides said it is possible that attorney-general Giorgos Savvides will eventually accept a settlement based on the future decisions of the ECHR and cover the family’s legal expenses, as well as any compensations that may be awarded.

The attorney-general’s office’s announcement saying that no evidence of criminal wrongdoing has come up in the case did not leave people indifferent.

As a result, a demonstration in front of the legal service office has been organised for July 12 at 6.30pm

“Thanasis Nicolaou’s case is not just another unsolved murder. It is a continued cover-up, in which justice does not play a part,” the organisers of the demo wrote on Facebook.

“On July 12 we will demonstrate in front of the legal service office to demand a better Cyprus, where laws are enforced and people have access to justice.”

In 2005 Nicolaou’s body was found under a bridge in Alassa; police and the army at the time ruled his death as a suicide.

Nicolaou’s mother, Andriana, has always said her son was murdered because he witnessed drug dealing in his army camp and was subjected to bullying.

The ECHR ruling prompted the exhumation of his remains two years ago over suspicions of foul play and further autopsies showed he had been beaten and strangled.

One of the investigators tasked with carrying out the third inquiry into his death said last year that criminal acts had been committed.

That raised questions, such as if a Greek pathologist found evidence of strangulation 15 years later, how did a Cypriot pathologist not find the same within hours of the guardsman’s body being discovered.

In April this year, a glimmer of hope appeared to be opening up for Nicolaou’s mother – who has been demanding justice since his death – when the attorney-general’s office handed over the material of police investigations which it had previously refused to.

 

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