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29 May, 2024
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State pushes ahead with Ledra protest trial

Peace activist accused of unlawful assembly and assaulting soldier walks free pending trial in Cyprus


A Cypriot peace activist, who was arrested after a physical altercation with a soldier during a protest at the Ledra checkpoint, will face trial on multiple charges including assault and unlawful assembly.

(Click here for an update to the story)

According to local media, a 55-year-old Greek Cypriot man was released from custody after his two-day remand expired in connection with an assault case over the weekend.

A video shows the conscript pushing against barricades as crowds were demanding to be allowed to pass through and cross into the north

The man, who took part in a Saturday protest against the closing of Ledra checkpoint in downtown divided Nicosia, was captured on video assaulting a Greek Cypriot soldier.

He was arrested hours later when he walked into a police station to identify himself, with officers charging him initially with assault and later adding unlawful assembly and public disorder charges.

The peace activist, who is shown in a video trying to apologize for the assault during the incident, maintained that he pushed the soldier but denied punching him.

According to a video published by daily Politis, the conscript was pushing against barricades as crowds were demanding to be allowed to pass through and cross into the north.

The video appears to show the man first pushing the soldier with the young man then kicking the peace activist using his knee. Then the 55-year-old reacted by using his hands to assault the young man.

Police prosecutors told the judge that investigators were going through security camera footage to identify other possible suspects.

Defence Minister Savvas Angelides was reportedly briefed by the soldier involved in the incident, while an official statement from his office said “nobody is allowed to assault for any reason members of the National Guard while they are on duty.”

Additional reports said a police officer was also caught on video assaulting a private citizen during the same demonstration, when droves of protesters defied a shutdown order by the government for a number of crossings on health grounds amid coronavirus fears.

Critics say the measure did not make any sense, as a number of other crossings as well as ports of entry remained opened and no cases had been confirmed on the ethnically-divided island.

The government insists that specific closings, initially for seven days, were intended to assist state officials in better handling the coronavirus threat following fears that thousands of foreign students in the north came from high risk countries, such as Iran.

Officials have denied reports that the closing of the checkpoints was a political move, saying they were prepared to shut down more locations or reverse the decision and keep them all open based on official advice regarding the evolution of the coronavirus threat.

Cyprus  |  coronavirus  |  Ledra  |  protest  |  peace activist  |  arrest  |  trial  |  soldier  |  government  |  defence  |  Angelides  |  health  |  politics

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