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12° Nicosia,
05 December, 2022
 
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Legal chaos after president commutes life sentence

Lawyer in Cyprus says lifer witness was bribed by prosecutors in Ayia Napa murders, Legal denies deal

Newsroom

Critics in the world of justice in Cyprus are crying foul after the President offered clemency to a man whose life sentence early in an Ayia Napa quadruple murder trial made him a credible state witness who helped put away other defendants.

A man who was handed down a life sentence after admitting a role in the Ayia Napa quadruple murder of 2016 was released this week and fled the country just days after appeals by men he helped put away were rejected by the Supreme Court.

The case goes back to a late night on 23 June 2016 in Ayia Napa, where local businessman Phanos Kalopsidiotis, an off-duty police officer with his wife, and another foreign national were shot dead outside a restaurant in an apparent mob-hit.

Defense lawyers had accused the state witness of changing his initial statements to implicate others in the murders, such as introducing names of suspects to whom he had made no references in earlier statements.

'One of our positions early on was that the witness, who was a co-defendant in the case, was given promises in exchange for testifying against the two others and getting them convicted'

A lawyer defending one of the suspects had argued that prosecutors made a deal with the lifer because they did not have evidence against another man said to have been their target and a sworn enemy of Kalopsidiotis.

Defense lawyer Andreas Papacharalambous, who represented one of the defendants in the case, was furious upon hearing the witness had been pardoned.

A client of Papacharalambous was one of two men who had just lost their sentence appeals earlier this week in the same case, with the lawyer saying the suspension of the life sentence was a “disgrace” as the lifer ended up only serving six years.

Papacharalambous went on to accuse the state attorney’s office of waiting out the Supreme Court decision for his client before giving the green light for commuting the sentence.

“One of our positions early on was that the witness, who was a co-defendant in the case, was given promises in exchange for testifying against the two others and getting them convicted,” the lawyers said.

Papacharalambous stated that it was his opinion that state prosecutors did not have strong evidence in court, adding that “it is not okay to bribe someone to secure a testimony.”

But the Legal Department has denied the allegations and further cited other reasons for the decision.

“The testimony of the person in question was imperative in the course of the case and conviction of all those implicated,” a Legal Department statement said on Wednesday.

The statement went on to say that clemency was given on the basis of the witness’ “substantial assistance” but also for “health reasons.”

Article 53 paragraph 4 of the Constitution allows the President of the Republic of Cyprus to “remit, suspend, or commute any sentence passed by a Greek Cypriot court based on the recommendation of the Attorney-General.

Legal pundits said the decision to pardon the witness and help him flee Cyprus for a number of years had no legal precedence.

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