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Judge clashes with state prosecutor in Thanasis case

thanasis nicolaou whose body was discovered in a ditch in 2005
Thanais Nicolaou, whose body was found in a ditch in 2005. His mother has always claimed he was murdered

Every passing day that the case of former guardsman Thanasis Nicolaou remains open is a blow to Cyprus’ justice system, the judge hearing the case said on Wednesday, as she clashed with the state prosecutor.

Tempers flared after the legal service unexpectedly asked for forensic pathologist Andreas Marnerides to be added to the witness lineup, with the judge and defence questioning the snap request.

Defending its stance, state prosecutor Xenia Xenophontos said Marnerides had been appointed as an independent expert by the attorney-general himself a few days ago, as the findings of pathologists have clashed so far.

Already, Marnerides assessed the witness material and emailed his findings on Sunday evening, the state prosecutor noted.

Nonetheless, the judge questioned how it was possible for the expert to study the massive witness material and have it ready if he was only appointed a few days ago.

The judge also asked what changed after two years of investigations and assessments that necessitate Marnerides’ witness statement.

The state prosecutor retorted there was “animosity from the court”, adding that the goal of the legal service is to allow the truth to emerge. She added the attorney-general has deemed Marnerides’ findings and his witness statements should be put before the inquest proceedings.

Should Marnerides be allowed to be added to the witness lineup, the state prosecutor requested he take the stand in the last 10 days of December and be allowed to examine Thanasis’ remains currently at Limassol’s police unit.

Marnerides works in the UK and has cooperated with authorities in Cyprus in the past for serious cases, the state prosecutor added.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the judge stressed that irrespective of the outcome, “every day for which this case remains open is a blow to the institution of justice.”

The lawyer representing Nicolaou’s family also questioned why the prosecution never mentioned their request, even during the last hearing on Monday, and objected to Marnerides examining the remains.

Meanwhile, though forensic pathologist Panicos Stavrianos was due to testify on Wednesday, he did not attend due to acute gastroenteritis, the prosecutor said. Stavrianos is expected to be in court on December 11, the date his cross-examination by the family’s lawyer was scheduled.

Xenophontos said she had tried to bring the police examiner who was responsible for the transfer of Nicolaou’s remains to Greece in Stavrianou’s place, but she could not attend the procedure either.

At the same time, she informed the court that the anthropologist who examined Thanasis’ bones after their exhumation and the police sergeant who recorded the reports of the forensic experts who examined them would be called to testify.

The court will decide over prosecution’s request for Marnerides as a witness on Friday at 11:30am.

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, who was 26 at the time, was murdered because he witnessed drug dealing in his army camp and was subjected to bullying.

 

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