By Nicholas Theodoulou and Nikolaos Prakas
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the attorney-general’s office in Nicosia on Wednesday night as they decried a “corrupt government [and] corrupt attorney general” over the lack of action in the Thanasis Nicolaou case.
Andriana Nicolaou, mother of the national guardsman who died in 2005, was present at the event with demonstrators making a huge show of solidarity – holding placards reading “I am also Andriana”.
Andriana, typically dressed in black and with shock white hair, has been relentless in her pursuit of justice in the case, for 18 years – with her efforts recently gaining wider support and coverage.
She addressed the crowd, telling them through a microphone, that: “We have one goal, to fight until justice is achieved.”
“I have been fighting for 18 years for answers [but] for 18 years the murders of my child are free and among us,” Andriana said.
July 12 marks the date on which Thanasis Nikolaou was enlisted in the National Guard.
“Today he went to the army and he signed his death certificate, I raised my kids in a foreign country like mine raised me with ethics and Christian values – he saw trafficking of drugs. They threatened him if he made a complaint,” she said.
For many, she has become a rallying cry – with a protester at the scene telling the Cyprus Mail “if my mother was still with us, she would be here”.
The mother’s group of national guardsmen (Pemse) were present as were former senior politicians including Erato Kozakou Marcoullis and Androulla Vasiliou. Xenia Constantinou from Disy, and former MP and women’s group leader Skevi Koukouma, and former MP Anna Theologou were also present.
Songs calling for justice rang out over loudspeakers as protesters marched with signs reading “corrupt government, corrupt attorney-general, leave now”.
Another read “one murder, many murderers”.
Attorney General George Savvides came in for particular criticism from some, with one sign reading that he was appointed by a corrupt president – referring to former President Nikos Anastasiades.
Actress Popi Avraam told the Cyprus Mail at the scene: “We are occupied by Turkey in part of our country and in the other part we are occupied by a corrupt state.
“We demand justice! We don’t have rule of law and the state cannot protect us,” she said.
“The Thanasis issue burns in all our souls. There is so much corruption.”
Others shouted that the state should be ashamed, and the officials should quit.
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.
His mother has always said her son was murdered and had been subjected to bullying, recently adding that he witnessed drug dealing in his army camp.
An 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.
The attorney-general Savvides ordered the case to be reopened.
One of the investigators tasked with carrying out this third inquiry into his death said last year that criminal acts had been committed.
However, in June after the case was reopened, the attorney-general’s office announced that no evidence of criminal wrongdoing has come up in the case following their investigations.
Andriana said afterwards that they would take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
“An obvious crime has been covered up,” she said, expressing her disappointment and frustration with the legal service and the attorney-general’s office.
She confirmed her intention to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
“Having been brought to this point, we have no choice but to pursue private criminal prosecutions. If there is any alternative solution to this, I ask the state to duly inform us,” she said.
Nicolaou’s mother also took a dig at the attorney-general, saying that his office did not do enough to shed light on the case.
“Those who should have done what was needed to be done have washed their hands and granted absolution to both the murderers and those who failed to do their job correctly (the investigators).”
Moreover, she questioned how a crime could remain unsolved for as many years as the one involving her late son has been.
“The struggle is not just mine; it is everyone’s struggle, since this country has been tainted by corruption.