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17 July, 2024
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Al Jazeera report trial postponed as case hits legal snag

Former officials face legal scrutiny, defense questions validity of laws in high-profile trial

Newsroom / CNA

In a significant development, the criminal case involving the Al Jazeera report and events tied to the exceptional naturalization of foreign investors and businessmen saw a postponement on Tuesday. The Nicolatos Commission's findings prompted the delay, with the rescheduled hearing set for November 29. On this date, both the defense and prosecution will address pre-trial objections raised by Christakis Tziovanis' defense counsel, George Papaioannou. The objections specifically question the absence of a valid law forming the basis of charges against the defendants.

The accused individuals in the case include former House of Representatives President Dimitris Sylouris, former AKEL Member of Parliament Christakis Tziovanis, and one of Mr. Tziovanis' company managers, Antonis Antoniou.

During the proceedings at the Nicosia Criminal Court, lawyer George Papaioannou reiterated concerns about the lack of a valid law, emphasizing that the Legal Service's accusations rest on an invalid legal foundation. He pinpointed charges 1, 3, and 5 as lacking legal basis, arguing that they failed to disclose any offense recognized by the law.

Papaioannou argued that the Penal Law, particularly through Article 4, does not constitute "Law" as defined by the Constitution and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. He cited reasons such as the manifest vagueness of the Penal Law and the unclear nature of the threatened sanctions.

Additionally, a new preliminary objection related to category 5, involving passive influence peddling, was presented to the court. Papaioannou contended that Category 5 lacks legal standing and fails to disclose any offense known to the law.

Papaioannou asserted that the trial's continuation would violate Christakis Tziovanis' rights guaranteed by the Constitution and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

In response, Elli Papagapiou, representing the Legal Service, argued that there was no legal issue with the indictment.

The court decided to postpone the trial to November 29, 2023, at 09:00, where both sides will present arguments on the pre-trial objections. The Court will announce its decision at a later stage.

The defendants will be present at the next hearing under conditions imposed by the Nicosia District Court to ensure their presence at the trial.

Defense counsel emphasized the urgency of starting the case on its merits. Meanwhile, George Papaioannou expressed an intention to raise a third pre-trial objection concerning category 4 at a later stage. According to Tziovanis' counsel, count 4 should be suspended due to abuse of process, invoking the Community law defense of impossibility.

It is important to note that all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

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