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28 May, 2024
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Another setback for police in spy van case

Cypriot Supreme Court cancels warrants in spy van case saying they were too general


The Supreme Court in the Republic of Cyprus has recalled a number of court warrants in the high-profile spy van case, saying the sworn affidavits by police were not up to par.

According to the Cyprus News Agency, the Supermen Court recently canceled three arrest warrants and a search warrant that were issued back in December 2019 in connection with the spy van case.

The case dates back to summer 2019, after a promotional tech video online drew attention in Cyprus over Israeli surveillance firm WiSpear, amid accusations that the company’s controversial spy van, the SpearHead 360, was used to hack into mobile devices and unlawfully gain access to private data, a claim the company has flatly denied.

The ruling said sworn affidavits presented before a Larnaca District Court to support the warrants were not specific to each listed offence or suspect, adding that matching a suspect to an alleged offence would have been fairly easy in cases where only one crime was suspected.

The right to freedom and the sanctity of one’s home cannot be violated on the basis of general and unspecified claims, no matter how difficult may be the work of police investigators

“But the court issued arrest warrants without having a way to examine specific evidence on which to ascertain whether there was warranted suspicion that the plaintiffs were implicated in the commission of any of the thirteen crimes listed in the document,” the ruling said.

The Supreme Court said it was not sufficient for police to list more than one offence and then make general statements about breaking specific laws without matching a suspect or wanted items to either one or more crimes.

“Furthermore, it ought not to be up to the court to pick an offence from a pool of listed crimes in order to match it with a suspect when such a correlation is not specified in the affidavit,” the Supreme Court said.

Police were also called out on another statement in the sworn affidavit, when a reference was made to law enforcement seeking the detention of the three suspects “justified based on the need to prevent” influencing or tampering with witnesses or evidence or fleeing abroad.

“This shows that the purpose of the arrest warrants was not to serve an ongoing investigation that appears to have been concluded by that time,” the Supreme Court said, adding that no specific evidence was ever presented that would justify the arrest of the suspects or search of the home and vehicle belonging to one of them.”

In December 2019, the day after the three arrests, prosecutors in the courtroom pointed to Wi-Fi antennas installed at Larnaca International Airport during a remand hearing.

But defence lawyers objected to a request for an eight-day remand, saying there was no evidence that a crime was ever committed by the suspects - a programmer, a warehouse attendant, and an assistant.

Prosecutors insisted that the suspects were involved in the case and argued they needed more time for the investigation.

But the district judge did not approve the remand requests, saying the detention of the three suspects was not warranted.

During the appeal, the Supreme Court sided with the plaintiffs, noting that the police statement during the remand hearing stated “arrest warrants and actual arrests were necessary for the effective investigation of the listed offences.”

“This last statement cannot be inferred from the previous unsubstantiated statements… which were too general, and based on that alone, the arrest warrants also could not have been issued accordingly,” the SC said.

The Supreme Court finally said “the right to freedom and the sanctity of one’s home cannot be violated on the basis of general and unspecified claims, no matter how difficult may be the work of police investigators.”

Last year the Supreme Court recalled another arrest warrant in the case, ruling that police had no reasonable basis to detain a man who had been otherwise cooperating with authorities from the get-go.

Cyprus  |  spy van  |  Supreme Court  |  WiSpear  |  surveillance  |  police

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