President's Immunity Deliberation at Supreme Court Delayed
The Supreme Court has postponed its deliberations on waiving President Demetris Christofias' immunity to prosecution until May 3rd, citing Attorney-general Petros Clerides' change in position on the issue.
The proceedings were started after the deaths of 13 men in an explosion at Evangelos Florakis naval base on July 11th, 2011. An investigation into the explosion carried out by lawyer Polys Polyviou found that the president and two members of his cabinet were directly and personally responsible for delays in deciding what to do with the 98 containers which exploded at the naval base. The containers were confiscated in January 2009 while they were en route to Syria from Iran in contravention of UN sanctions against Iran.
During Polyviou's investigation, damning evidence came to light that Christofias promised Syrian president Bashar al-Assad that the confiscated weapons would not leave Cyprus, and would possibly be returned to him, and that this policy resulted in fatal delays in removing or destroying the explosives.
In the aftermath of the investigation, Christofias denied responsibility and refused to resign voluntarily, which would have been the only way for him to leave office before the end of his term. A president can only be prosecuted in special cases including moral turpitude or betrayal of the country.
The families of several of the victims of the blast then filed civil lawsuits against the president, as well as a motion to waive his immunity from prosecution to the Supreme Court.
Initially, the attorney-general argued that the Supreme Court should proceed to the interpretation of the relevant articles of the constitution relating to the office of President and the reasons for waiving immunity. However, the Attorney-general changed his tune and argued that the Supreme Court should reject the claims of relatives of the victims and not to proceed to interpretation.
With today's decision, the court gave orders to the Attorney General to present it, within three weeks, with written legal arguments to explain why he believes that the proceedings should not proceed.
Three weeks after that, lawyers Dimitris Araouzos and Anastasios Antoniou representing the Ioannidis family, Christos Triantafyllidis representing the Theophilou family and Lukas Loucaides the Heracleous family, should also respond in written legal arguments. On May 3, the sides will give an oral clarification on their written arguments.
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