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15 June, 2024
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Supreme Court says Twitter warrant was illegal

Search warrant over justice minister parody account ruled unlawful after woman files appeal


The Supreme Court has ruled that a police search warrant, in connection with a complaint filed by Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis over a Twitter parody account, was unlawful.

According to local media, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a sworn declaration by a female officer did not match the complaint filed by Yiolitis, who had told police that unknown person or persons had created a fake account on social media and violated the privacy of her family.

The minister had filed a complaint with police about the Twitter profile in question, a parody account that appeared to poke fun at Yiolitis. It was understood that some time, at least days later, police officers obtained information about a specific woman in Larnaca.

Police obtained a warrant and raided the Larnaca home of the alleged account owner, confiscating her laptop and mobile phone, while the woman ended up taking legal recourse and filing an appeal with the Supreme Court over what her lawyers described as an illegal search.

On Friday, the Supreme Court pointed out that police never disclosed the source of their information during their request for a search warrant, saying Yiolitis had spoken of unknown persons in her complaint.

Information received identifying the plaintiff as creator and operator of the account had no reference to the content of that information, such as how was it obtained and where did it come from

“Information had been received that identified the plaintiff as the creator and operator of the specific fake account, but there was no reference to the content of that information, such as how was it obtained and where did it come from?” the Supreme Court Judge said.

“And so, I find that it was impossible for the district court to conclude on its own, based on the information received, that there was a reasonable suspicion pointing to the plaintiff as the perpetrator of the alleged offences,” the Judge added.

The Judge said there were no signs of a reasonable suspicion and the source of information was never disclosed.

“Here, the sworn statement used to obtain the search warrant does not mention the specific reasons that police wished to locate and confiscate the devices,” the Judge added.

According to the Supreme Court ruling, the Larnaca District Court issued a search warrant by overstepping its authority, adding that the SC Judge was issuing a Certiorari, effectively ruling in favour of the plaintiff and rendering the search warrant "unlawful."

Attorney General George Savvides, who served in Yiolitis' position before becoming the state's chief law officer, accepted the ruling without first raising an objection, with reports saying the Legal department had evaluated the case and decided not to step in.

But questions remained over police seeking to obtain information without going through proper channels, with the woman’s lawyers saying the Certiorari was a first step and suggesting paying damages to their client would be the next step at the very least.

Critics and legal experts have cried foul over the case, saying the minister's political position may have wrongly played a role in police "going the extra mile" to raid a home and confiscate computers belolnging to a citizen over a pardoy account on social media.

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