Cyprus police have arrested another man in connection with an investigation into an alleged assassination plot against Israeli businessmen, while lawyers representing the main suspect say lack of a public hearing is not fair to their client.
A Paphos resident, described as a 27-year-old food delivery guy originally from Pakistan, was arrested Tuesday night following a raid in his apartment, where law enforcement agents also confiscated a number of items during a home search.
Local media reported that the raid took place after police examined phone records belonging to the main suspect, a 38-year-old Russian national of Azeri background who was apprehended in Nicosia last month. He was remanded for the maximum of eight days but then ordered to remain in remanded custody for another eight days after his lawyers asked for translated court documents.
Closed hearings to protect police informants
Police said the arrests were being handled as a possible terrorism case, with the judge ordering all hearings take place behind closed doors.
But during a remand hearing on Monday the Azeri suspect’s lawyers flatly rejected the terrorism links and challenged prosecutors to prove to the court that a terrorism-related crime had been committed or that their client was in any way linked to any offense related to terror.
Reports said prosecutors managed to convince the judge that there was sufficient evidence against the suspect as well as on the need to hold closed hearings, with local media also saying prosecutors argued the lives of police informants would be at risk if their names were to be heard in public.
The Pakistani man is expected to appear before a Nicosia judge on Wednesday for his remand hearing, while the Azeri suspect’s remand hearing is also scheduled to take place on the same day.
The Azeri man’s brother says the suspect was caught in the middle of a political ploy and wondered how a father of five could kill a businessman who is being guarded by ten people
The Constitution does not allow remanded custody to exceed eight days unless new evidence is presented in court that changes the basis for detaining a suspect further.
While Cypriot police keeps a tight lid on the case, Israeli officials insist Iran was behind a terror plot to kill Israelis abroad, with Tehran denying the allegations saying they were “baseless.”
Days after the initial arrest on September 27, reports said 49-year-old billionaire Teddy Sagi from Israel was a target of an assassination plot in Cyprus “due to debts he owes to Russian business partners.”
Sagi, who also holds a Cypriot passport, had left the island prior to the initial arrest but later denied he had been warned to leave.
During the apprehension of the Azeri man by anti-terrorism officers and undercover police, in Engomi near Sagi's building, evidence found in a parked car rented by the suspect included rental agreements for other vehicles, along with a loaded handgun and a silencer.
But the Azeri man’s brother, who spoke to SigmaLive this week, says the suspect 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 is being guarded by ten people.