Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis said Monday that police did not have instructions to use brutal violence against protestors in Nicosia on Saturday, though critical MPs stress that it is obvious that the police response was decided in advance with those responsible avoiding responsibility.
Speaking after the tense House human rights committee where Yiolitis was faced with harsh criticism over both the police brutality that marked Saturday’s anti-corruption protest and over the handling of her complaint regarding a Twitter parody account, the Justice Minister said a probe has been launched into whether excessive violence was used by police on Saturday.
Yiolitis said those found to be responsible of a disproportionate use of violence will be called accountable, noting that she told critical AKEL MP Eleni Mavrou that she “did not sleep calmly” on Saturday or Sunday night.
Yiolitis also said that she contacted the 25-year-old woman whose eye was severely wounded from the police water cannon blasts, expressing her hope that all goes well with the surgery will be required to undergo on Monday in an attempt to prevent permanent damage to her eyesight.
The Justice Minister said that “certainly there were no instructions for such repression.” She added that though demonstrations are banned under a coronavirus decree, police nevertheless must not react with violence. Yioliti stressed that there is an overarching climate that pegs everyone as corrupt, which she said is not the case.
Asked if she will be resigning from her position amid the strong backlash to police conduct, Yioliti said her resignation is at the disposal of the President of the Republic every day.
The most vocal criticism against Yiolitis during the House human rights committee came from MP Eleni Mavrou, who stressed that Saturday’s events were terrifying and it’s a matter of sheer luck that we’re not mourning human lives.
Mavrou referred to “unprovoked institutional violence for which no one has claimed responsibility”, adding that “it is obvious that the police attack on civilians was pre-determined.”
Mavrou said “those in power rulers are dangerous to democracy and the least the Minister could do today was to take responsibility.”
DIKO MP Christos Orphanides said there are testimonies, photos and videos that confirm that excessive and disproportionate violence was exerted against civilians, stressing that the police investigation can and should be completed within 24 hours.
"Unfortunately, we have witnessed a dangerous deviation from democracy and the behaviour of an authoritarian regime," Orphanides said, adding that “The DISY government must stop using the health crisis as a pretext to silence the negative criticism it receives.”
He added that political responsibility is there and must be assumed with the resignation of the Minister of Justice.
Greens MP George Perdikis referred to the police brutality as unacceptable and said that they expected the Minister to assume political responsibility. "I would have resigned in her place," he said.