President Nicos Anastasiades has issued a reprieve for a man sentenced to 45 days in prison for violating curfew, following outrage by legal experts who said the punishment did not fit the crime.
According to an official statement, Anastasiades ordered on Thursday that the 35-year-old fast-food restaurant owner walk free after taking into account the nature of the offence as well as other factors.
The local man from Frenaros, Famagusta district, was issued a citation on March 25 for breaking a 9pm curfew. Reports said he was stopped by police after leaving his food delivery business, around 9:15pm, and told officers he was on his way to visit his girlfriend.
But prosecutors told the court the man did not tell police officers he had got off work, arguing that the defendant said he was home and decided to go visit his girlfriend.
Paralimni Judge Michalis Papanathasiou said he did not find the defendant to be reliable, saying the police officer who testified for the prosecution was convincing and had made a good impression on him.
Legal experts who weighed in on the case said the punishment did not fit the crime
Papathanasiou, who made headlines during the Ayia Napa rape case, said the man was “making things up” and sentenced him to 45 days on Tuesday, saying nobody was above the law.
Local supporters and friends of the defendant cried foul over the sentence, arguing that the defendant was a law-abiding citizen and that the justice system did not treat all citizens equally. Reports also said the man was living with his girlfriend at the time but police officers did not believe him.
The judge chose to make an example of the case, saying the defendant decided to go see his girlfriend in violation of a government decree, describing such behaviour as “unacceptable.”
The president, after consulting with Attorney General Costas Clerides, took into consideration the fact that two days after the offence, citizens were able to simply pay a fine for the specific violation, something which prosecutors told the court was not available on the day of the offence.
But legal experts also weighed in on the nature of the case, saying the punishment did not fit the crime.
A day after the sentencing, Alexandros Clerides, attorney for the Association for the Protection of Rights of Prisoners and Detainees, told the Cyprus News Agency that it was “concerning” that the court had imposed such a severe punishment.
“At a period where efforts are being made to decongest prisons through various means, such as through the appointment of an ad hoc committee to resolve the issue, it is concerning to see such news,” he said.
The association has been calling for alternative options in sentencing, such as ordering the defendant in this case to appear for work at a hospital for 45 days under supervision.
Judges have come under scrutiny also for jailing people who could not pay their debts.
Local supports reportedly said the restaurant owner had a clean record prior to his prison sentence. It was not clear whether the court conviction would be expunged.