Another murder suspect is in police custody in the north in connection with the murder of a Turkish Cypriot businessman, after Greek Cypriot police handed Azmad Ali Virk over to UN officials.
According to Turkish Cypriot media, Virk was transferred from Greek Cypriot custody to UN officials and then Turkish Cypriot law enforcement officers on Friday around 12:30pm. The suspect was then remanded for three days by a Turkish Cypriot judge, after serving a brief sentence in the south on document forgery.
Virk, who was previously arrested at Larnaca International Airport while attempting to fly out of the Republic, is one of four suspects in the murder of Gokhan Naim, a 52-year-old Turkish Cypriot currency exchange owner who was gunned down outside his residence in north Nicosia in March. Two other were detained in the north while another individual was rumoured also to have fled south.
The handing over of the murder suspect took place following an informal meeting between the two Cypriot leaders on the divided island. The meeting on Friday morning, which was facilitated by UN special representative Elizabeth Spehar, was another effort to kickstart a new round of peace talks and further implement confidence-building measures between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.
The handing over of the murder suspect took place following an informal meeting between the two Cypriot leaders on the divided island
“The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to intensifying the work of the Technical Committees with the objective of improving the daily lives of all Cypriots and to implementing further confidence-building measures, with UN support,” it was said in an official statement.
Virk’s case was an example of such an agreement between the two sides according to Hakki Onen, the Turkish Cypriot member on the bi-communal Technical Committee on Crime and Criminal Matters.
“As a result of our cooperation within the committee, we hope that the extradition of suspects in the 12-day period will contribute positively to ensuring justice is served and addressing public sentiment,” Onen said.
LCA airport officers had received an alert on Virk through the communication channels of the bicommunal crime committee shortly after Naim’s murder, while two other suspects had been detained.
Last month, Turkish Cypriot authorities handed over another suspect to their counterparts in the south through the UN and the crime committee. Miroslav Balazovjech, also known as Rudolf, was wanted in connection with attempted murder in south Nicosia.
The 39-year-old Slovakian was arrested in Kyrenia back in January, after being implicated in the attempted murder of 57-year-old Nicosia businessman Nikos Rodhotheou, the younger brother of Andreas Rodhotheou who was gunned down in a secluded safe house in Limassol last year.
Rudolf’s custody transfer into the hands of the authorities in the Republic of Cyprus came one month after an exchange of other murder suspects took place between north and south, with officials on both sides of divided Cyprus sending a clear message against impunity for crimes.
“We also hope that [the extraditions] will serve as a deterrent against the committing of similar crimes,” Onen added.