Police have reportedly found a third gun in connection with a thwarted alleged plot against Israeli businessmen in Cyprus, while the prime suspect’s lawyer is resorting to the Constitution and crying foul over consecutive remand renewal tactics against his client.
Last Saturday, according to daily Politis, police located another gun in connection with the investigation into an alleged assassination plot against Israelis. The case started with the arrest of a Russian national of Azeri background who was arrested in late September in Nicosia.
Initial reports said the prime suspect’s arrest took place in Engomi, west Nicosia, near a building where Israeli businessmen and alleged targets had been working. But it was later reported that the arrest took place closer to downtown at a parking lot outside the Municipal Swimming Pool in Agios Andreas.
Police have not provided details in the case, with some reports pointing to a financial dispute over unpaid Russian debts and others citing Israeli officials and intelligence saying Iran was behind a terrorist plot to target Israelis on the island.
Defense lawyer Efstathios Efstathiou has raised objection over his Azeri client being ordered by a Nicosia judge in remanded custody every eight days, the maximum period allowed during a criminal probe.
'My client is already in remanded custody in connection with a gun possession offense. How can police request an extension of the remand in connection with another case?
Efstathiou, who called for an immediate filing of the case to go to trial, alluded to Article 11 paragraph 6 of the Constitution, which says interrogation during remanded custody may not exceed eight days for the specific offense.
The lawyer said his client, who was being held on a gun possession charge, should not be subjected to further detention in a different case.
During a preliminary cross examination of Sergeant Andreas Andreou from Nicosia CID, Efstathiou argued that based on evidence provided by the prosecution there was only a gun possession charge against his client.
But the remand renewal was based on sworn testimony in connection with another gun found in Paphos.
“My client is already in remanded custody in connection with a gun possession offense. How can police request an extension of the remand in connection with another case?” the lawyer objected.
Prosecutors argued that the prime suspect was not being held on a gun possession charge, alluding to the same paragraph in the Constitution where a judge is given discretion to extend a pre-trial detention up to three months.
No offense against the Azeri suspect has been made public except gun possession. But police have been keeping a tight lid on the case, citing national security reasons and safety concerns for informants.
Police have arrested five other male suspects in the case, described in the media as four Pakistani nationals and a man from Lebanon, all of whom were being detained but prosecutors have not clarified whether they were facing the same charges.
Police sources told Knews last month without getting into details that the prime suspect and at least the four Pakistani nationals could be facing at least one common charge. Other reports alluded to charges of conspiracy but it was not clear whether such evidence was presented during remand hearings.
According to a number of recent reports by Politis, three guns are known to have been found during the course of the investigation. The first one was said to have been inside a rental car approached by the main suspect back in late September as officers rushed to apprehend him.
The second gun was handed over to law enforcement authorities through mediation by Politis, which broke the story saying the newspaper’s chief editor had been contacted by an unnamed Greek Cypriot male who was a guest at a hotel in the north and claimed he had seen the Azeri suspect hide a nylon bag when the two men were staying there and later realized there was a gun inside.
Politis said on Tuesday that the third gun had been found buried in a yard outside a residence in Paphos district, where one of the Pakistani suspects had been working as a food delivery guy.
“It was buried in a nylon bag in which there was also a second full magazine but also a silencer. There was also a women’s full-body underwear inside,” Politis wrote.
The Pakistani suspect along with other secondary suspects in the case was arrested after police obtained access to the phone records.
But the arrests were based on a phone data retention law that was found recently by the Supreme Court to be in violation of Cypriot law as well as European human rights.
Efstathiou has reportedly sent a letter to Andreou asking that any and all investigative work stemming from his client’s phone records be halted, citing the recent Supreme Court ruling.