A local judge in Famagusta handed down a 90-day suspended sentence to a man who pleaded guilty to rioting charges in connection with an incident at Dherynia checkpoint, while eight others await trial after pleading not guilty.
According to local media, a 25-year-old male pleaded guilty before a Famagusta District Judge this week, following his arrest on October 10 during a pro-Greek demonstration that turned violent.
The defendant, who received a 3 month jail sentence suspended for three years, was among other suspects who were detained by riot officers who rushed to the area after a police line had been breached by a crowd of hooded men.
Reports said around 250 protesters gathered at the Dherynia checkpoint in Famagusta district in the early evening, with rioters storming into the buffer zone, shouting anti-Turkish slogans, and causing property damage.
A video posted online showed rioters with their faces covered holding baseball bats, breaching a gated entrance at the checkpoint, and chanting anti-Turkish slogans, such as “Cyprus is Greek” and “Turks, Mongols, murderers.”
Prosecutors obtained security camera footage and pressed rioting charges against nine suspects, eight of whom contested the charges and are scheduled to face trial early next year.
It was understood that prosecutors presentend evidence showing the defendants being present at the demonstration but it was not fully clear whether they had video evidence that they breached the gates or took part in the destruction of property.
Additional reports at the time said police were caught off guard, with no official permit having been issued for the demonstration, believed to have been carried out by fans of a local football club in Famagusta.
The area has been known for anti-Turkish demonstrations carried out by Greek Cypriots. Officials on both sides of the divided island condemned the incident, which took place after a decision in the north to open to the public a beach strip in Varosha, a ghost town inhabited mostly by Greeks until August 1974 when it was abandoned.
Prior to the two sides establishing the Dherynia checkpoint, Turkish Cypriots and the Turkish army had raised security concerns over the proposed route, citing fears of annual demonstrations, such as memorial marches for two Greek Cypriots who were killed in August 1996 during biker riots in the buffer zone. A Turkish soldier was shot dead a month later in a revenge attack.
Cyprus remains divided for decades, with expectations for a peace settlement remaining low even as UN Special Envoy Jane Lute is expected to visit the island early next year to test the waters for a new possibility of informal peace talks.