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22 October, 2020
 
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Chief Justice scolds bench in Alexoui case

Dissent penned by Supreme Court president says judges overlooked facts in appeal case

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A dissenting opinion written by the Supreme Court president pointed to “errors of principle” on Thursday, after a new appeal to get Alexoui and Rudolf out of remanded custody based on new facts was struck down again.

The lawyers of Nicosia businessman Alexis “Alexoui” Mavromichalis and Miroslav “Rudolf” Balazovjech, both of whom are being held without bail ahead of an attempted murder trial, had their appeals rejected by the Supreme Court even after they presented new evidence during a criminal court bail hearing.

On Thursday, a panel of three Supreme Court judges including Chief Justice Stelios Nathanael rejected the defendants’ appeal, siding with a criminal court bench ruling that rejected bail for the two men locked up pending trial since February 2020.

But Chief Justice Nathanael had expressed strong disagreement with two other SC judges on Thursday, saying in a dissenting opinion that the criminal court had overlooked facts in what he described as an “error of principle.”

Chief Justice Nathanael said the criminal court did not bother to evaluate new information, such as retracted statements from potential witnesses as well as the explanation given by prosecution, with the SC judge essentially saying the defence lawyers’ arguments had not been taken into consideration.

'As if all that were not enough... new information was favourable to the defendants, something that ought to have been potentially examined in a fair and balanced manner'

Alexoui and Rudolf are being accused of being involved in the attempted murder of Panicos “Glykas” Panayiotou back in 2017. Glykas, who had initially pointed to other suspects, later appeared to have told police during interrogation that two other individuals had told him Alexoui was behind the hit and Ruydolf pulled the trigger, when he was shot outside his apartment building in downtown Nicosia.

But one possible witness, Phanos Hadjigeorgiou, retracted his story, saying he was forced to lie after his family was threatened. The former potential witness, who eventually admitted lying to investigators, had said Glykas urged him to give a statement to police saying Mavromichalis had asked Hadjigeorgiou to take Panayiotou out otherwise he would cause trouble.

The other remaining potential witness, Yiorgos Christodoulou Zavrandonas, also did not corroborate Glykas’ story, essentially tearing to shreds the prosecutor’s case which was solely based on the shooting victim and sole witness in the murder trial.

Zavrandonas was initially arrested in the north back in March when Turkish Cypriot police in Famagusta searched his hotel room and found cocaine. A month earlier, police in the south had issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with one and a half kilos of cocaine in a Larnaca investigation.

Local media reports also said police were hoping that Zavrandonas would be a potential witness for the prosecution against Alexoui and Rudolf.

“There were no assessment let alone an attempt to evaluate the credibility of the witness testimony,” Nathanael said.

The dissenting opinion mirrored the arguments of the defence lawyers, Andros Pelekanos and Antonis Demetriou, who essentially argued that police prosecutors were not playing fair.

The defence had called on the criminal court bench to examine closely the evidence which they argued was full of contradictory statements, with the Chief justice saying these new facts did not leave Glykas’ testimony intact.

Presumption of innocence

“As if all that were not enough, what with the retraction and whatever else Hadjigeorgiou added regarding the plaintiff, that new information was favourable to the defendants, something that ought to have been potentially examined in a fair and balanced manner in such a way that it would be weighed against the presumption of innocence,” the Chief Justice said.

“The new circumstances were not taken into account,” he added, saying the criminal court bench made an error of principle that would have warranted an appeals court to intervene and set the defendants free on bail.”

The other two Supreme Court Judges wrote the majority opinion, denying bail on grounds of the defendants being a flight risk.

Mavromichalis, whose wife and child live on the island, has been at odds with police over recent years.

Besides Pelekanos saying the main prosecution witness in the trial made contradictory statements on multiple occasions, Alexoui’s attorney also raised questions over police conduct throughout the process as well as pointing to a feud between cops and his client.

TAGS
Cyprus  |  Supreme Court  |  appeals  |  Alexoui  |  Mavromichalis  |  Rudolf  |  Pelekanos  |  Nathanael  |  police  |  Nicosia

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