A teacher who won an appeal following an unlawful police search, in connection with a Twitter parody account complaint filed by Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis, has vowed to sue the state saying she was targeted because of her activism.
Niki Zarou, a primary school teacher and single mother of two, made headlines last week after her lawyers won an appeal case filed with the Supreme Court, effectively rendering a police search warrant unlawful.
According to Zarou, three police officers knocked on the door of her Larnaca residence where she lived with her two children, saying they had a warrant to search the house as part of an investigation into cyber crime. The alleged offences were linked to a parody account with the Twitter handle “Lady Emily Kardashian Duchess of Yiolou,” which poked fun at Yiolitis.
“They showed me a blue paper, didn’t give it to me, just showed it,” Zarou said on a radio programme, adding that they came inside the residence and told her they were investigating cyber crime.
“They asked me about the parody account and I told them I knew about it, like many other Twitter users but it wasn’t mine,” Zarou said she had told the officers.
'It is not okay for people in the comfort of their own home to worry that they will be punished somehow or at any time police can barge in just because they criticize the government'
She then said she had to explain to them that her name, along with the names of some politicians and other users, was included in a tweet by the parody account, in what was described as a joke for being members in Yiolitis' hypothetical Cabinet.
“My name was included in that tweet but I told them I didn’t know why,” Zarou said, adding that she jokingly told officers that if that was the case then she ought to have been receiving pay and benefits.
Police, who got a local judge to approve the warrant, said their suspicion was based on information identifying Zarou as the creator and owner of the twitter account.
But police never disclosed the source of the information that alleged the educator was the person behind the account, prompting a Supreme Court judge last Friday to render the warrant unlawful and Zarou posting a thank-you-note to supporters on Twitter.
Yiolitis’ life partner, a well known media mogul on the island, responded to Zarou’s tweet, telling her over the weekend “at least two politicians confided” in him that the teacher was indeed the parody account owner and that she was acting on behalf of a specific party.
“If I were in your position, my conscience wouldn’t let me sleep at night,” the media CEO said.
Zarou says she believes she was targeted because of her activism and role on social media, acknowledging the fact that some people may have been displeased over an article she had written.
“When the justice minister took legal action against another citizen, I wrote an article titled ‘Yiolitis versus the people’,” Zarou said, adding that she viewed the lawsuit as an attempt to silence those who sought to hold members of the government accountable.
That other citizen was Theano Kalavana, who was writing a column for Kathimerini Cyprus, a media outlet owned by the same Group that owns Knews. Kalavana was threatened with a lawsuit over comments she had made on social media about Yiolitis and golden passports.
“When you are being criticized as a public figure, let alone a minister, you [need to] respond with evidence, that’s what my article was all about,” Zarou said.
Zarou said the media mogul would be getting a letter from her lawyers, with reports saying her attorneys were already preparing to file a lawsuit against the state.
“I will take legal action so that people can feel safe in the comfort of their own home,” she said.
“It is not okay for people to worry that they will be punished somehow or at any time police can barge in just because they criticize the government,” Zarou added.