Prosecutors in Cyprus were on the rebound this week in the Azeri case after a defendant pleaded guilty to two charges, prompting media to speculate that a deal with the suspect-turned-witness could also make good on terror charges in a thwarted plot against Israelis on the island.
According to local media, a Cypriot defendant in the Azeri case is expected to testify for the prosecution against Russian national Orkhan Asadov, who is facing dozens of charges in an alleged thwarted plot to kill Israeli businessmen in Cyprus.
Daily Politis reported that a 21-year-old medical student, described as a Cypriot citizen of Lebanese background, pleaded guilty on Monday to being an accessory after the commission of a felony.
The student was the sixth and last person detained in the case, following the arrest of 38-year-old Russian national Orkhan Asadov in September 2021 and five other Pakistani nationals.
It was not clear what offences were being investigated against each defendant but local media said at least some of the Pakistani males worked as delivery drivers before investigators connected the dots between suspects based on phone records.
The medical student admitted failure to disclose knowledge of a terrorist plot, after he was accused of aiding a Pakistani co-defendant by providing him a car ride following Asadov’s detention
Asadov, who is of Azeri background, was arrested in Nicosia after police got a tip that he was involved in a plot to assassinate Israeli businessmen in Nicosia.
Court hearings have been taking place behind closed doors, with Cyprus police keeping a tight lid on the case citing national security reasons and concerns for informants in case their names were heard during trial.
While initial reports in Greek Cypriot media suggested the case involved a financial dispute over unpaid Russian debts, others cited Israeli officials who accused Iran of being behind a terrorist plot to target Israeli businessmen abroad.
Asadov’s lawyers understood there was a single gun possession charge but signaled a formidable defense for their client during previous bail hearings when they challenged other evidence including terrorism allegations.
But prosecutors this week upped their game after the student pleaded guilty to an offense based on a Combating of Terrorism and Victims' Protection law.
The Lebanese defendant purportedly admitted failure to disclose knowledge of a terrorist plot, after he was accused of aiding a Pakistani co-defendant by providing him a car ride following Asadov’s detention.
Asadov’s brother told Greek Cypriot media last year that his sibling was caught in the middle of a political ploy and wondered how a father of five children -including one living with a disability- could end up killing a businessman who was being guarded by ten people.
But prosecution on terrorism allegations continues in the case alongside other accusations associated with alleged unpaid debts, after initial reports said Asadov was under police surveillance when he flew to Cyprus from Russia to target Israeli billionaire Teddy Sagi over his business dealings.
Last week Turkish media said MIT agents in the country thwarted an Iranian plan to assassinate an Israeli businessman in Istanbul in response to the killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh in what Tehran deemed an Israeli operation.
Israeli has been accusing Iran of sponsoring terrorism and plotting to kill Israeli nationals abroad, with Tehran dismissing the accusations and saying claims of the Islamic Republic’s involvement in the alleged plot were "baseless."