Protesters gathered on Wednesday afternoon, July 12 outside the Legal Services in Nicosia to express their dissatisfaction with the Attorney General's decision not to pursue criminal charges in the murder case of national guard soldier Thanasis Nicolaou. The timing of the protest held significance as it coincided with the anniversary of Thanasis' enlistment in the National Guard back in 2005.
Joined by supporters, Mrs. Adriana Nicolaou, Thanasis' mother, stood at the forefront of the protest. Some participants held banners displaying the message "I am also Mrs. Adriana Nicolaou."
In her speech, Mrs. Adriana highlighted the primary objective of the protest, which is the pursuit of justice. She emotionally stated, "Today is a day that will forever be etched in our memories. On this very day in 2005, Thanasis joined the army, unknowingly sealing his own fate. Our presence here today is driven by a mix of anger, pain, sorrow, and disappointment in their deliberate incompetence."
Mrs. Adriana further expressed, "They sent Thanasis to a place where he didn't need a passport, but rather a death certificate."
Thanasis, a 26-year-old architect from Australia residing in Limassol, came to Cyprus in 2005 to fulfill a six-month reduced military service in the National Guard.
Before his tragic demise, Nikolaou had endured harassment and bullying from fellow soldiers at the same camp. In the days leading up to his death, he had reported these incidents to the officers, even escalating his concerns to the Commander the day before his passing.
Despite requesting a transfer, he was discovered dead the following day.
On the morning of September 29, 2005, Thanasis left his temporary location to report to his unit. He dressed in clean attire, packed a bag with additional clean clothes, and brought along some food he had purchased the previous night. However, at noon on the same day, a National Guard member contacted his family, informing them that Thanasis was missing and had failed to arrive at the camp.
Ultimately, Thanasis was found lifeless beneath the Alasas Bridge, having fallen from a height of 30 meters. Although he displayed no visible injuries, his mouth was filled with sand, and his fingers showed bruising.
On December 31, 2008, the Supreme Court invalidated the initial forensic examination findings through a privileged certiorari order.
Six years after Thanasis' untimely demise, following persistent efforts by his family, the Council of Ministers appointed two criminal investigators to delve into the circumstances surrounding his death. Forensic examiner Marios Matsakis was also tasked with reevaluating the case.
On April 27, 2012, Mr. Matsakis presented his report, noting that the injuries found on Nikolaou's body were inconsistent with a fall from the Alasas Bridge. He criticized the previous autopsies as unreliable and unacceptable.
Mr. Matsakis emphasized that the possibility of criminal involvement in Nikolaou's death should not have been dismissed. On December 21 of the same year, the criminal investigators appointed by the Council of Ministers submitted their report, suggesting that the 26-year-old soldier's demise was likely the result of criminal activity.
However, on February 24, 2014, the Attorney General decided against reopening the case for police reinvestigation, citing the belief that solving the case after nine years would be highly improbable.
Consequently, the family filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General of the Republic, the Police, the Military Authorities, the Investigators, and other relevant authorities of the state.
ECHR's reprimand to the Republic of Cyprus:
Convinced that Thanasis' death was not a suicide, his family turned to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and accused the Republic of Cyprus of mishandling the case.
In January 2020, the ECHR ruled against the Republic of Cyprus, criticizing its inadequate investigation and ordering a compensation of €32,000 to be paid to Thanasis' family.
During the court proceedings, Mrs. Adriana Nikolaou stated that the army officers were well aware of her son's unbearable circumstances resulting from drug-related issues within his unit. Despite their repeated pleas for assistance, they failed to protect him.
Subsequently, the family sought permission from the court to exhume Thanasis' remains for further specialized examinations, a request granted by the Limassol District Court.
In December 2020, the exhumation took place with the presence of police officers, led by Lefteris Kyriakou, the Head of the Limassol Criminal Investigation Department (CID). The deceased's relatives, Professor Filippos Koutsafis, the former Head of the Athens Forensic Service, forensic pathologists Sofoklis Sofokleous and Nikola Charalambous, Marios Matsakis representing the family, and a specialized anthropologist from the Republic were also present.
On June 17, 2021, it was announced that the new forensic report, resulting from the specialized examinations conducted in Greece, concluded that Thanasis' unfortunate death was a result of strangulation.