The family of Thanasis Nicolaou, the 26-year-old national guardsman who was found dead under the Alassa bridge in 2005, on Wednesday requested for the presiding judge at the Limassol court to be excluded from the case due to his prior service with the legal service.
The court is expected to render a decision on the matter on Friday at 10am.
The reason behind the request is linked to an ongoing dispute between Nicoloau’s family and the legal service, which earlier this year said there were not enough grounds to open a criminal case into Nicolaou’s death.
Nicolaou mother’s request to reopen the case on her son’s death was corroborated by a report filed by criminal investigator Antonis Alexopoulous, which suggested that at least three police officers and a forensic pathologist could have been involved in covering up the incident.
However, the legal service reviewed the report and decided not to proceed with a formal reopening of the case.
Though the guardsman’s death was originally ruled as a suicide, his mother Andriana has always maintained it was a murder coverup during his time carrying out military service as a conscript. She has always pointed to evidence she states was deliberately ignored by authorities.
“Since we have a dispute with the legal services, certain disagreements with the office could linger and distort the reality,” the family’s lawyer said.
Additionally, the lawyer requested that the previous judge presiding over the case be reinstated, deeming him “ideal due to his existing knowledge of the facts”.
The legal service later reacted to the family request saying in a statement that there is no reason to ask for a change of judge, since the current one presiding over the case was not involved in the investigation on Nicolaou’s death while working at the legal service.
Furthermore, the statement added that no colleagues of the judge will appear as witnesses in the case, thus avoiding any potential conflict of interest.
“The judge presiding over the case enjoys our respect and trust and our aim has always been to reveal the truth transparently,” the statement said.
Last July, Nicolaou’s mother eventually filed a private lawsuit against the police officers and a forensic pathologist who carried out the autopsy on her son.
The charges in the lawsuit centred on what the family called a negligent investigation and breach of official duty.
Their allegations are based on the findings of investigators Savvas Matsas and Alexopoulous. The former was dismissed by the attorney general after he revealed details of the third investigation to the media.
He alluded to a cover-up, saying original evidence was ignored after Nicolaou was found dead.
A pathologist hired by the family said the findings showed Nicolaou’s death was a result of foul play with strangulation being the cause of death. The pathologist completely ruled out suicide, saying Nicolaou’s hyoid – a U shaped bone that supports the tongue — was fractured and it had been caused before his death.
His mother has recently said her son had spoken to his army seniors about a drug ring, and his death was an attempt to silence him.
She has also revealed Nicolaou was bullied intensely by his fellow conscripts, which were made worse because he had grown up in Australia.