Mari Explosion: 'I Don't Feel Guilty' - Christofias
President Demetris Christofias said he does not feel guilty and that 'the President of the Republic' does not have any criminal responsibility in the deadly explosion at Mari naval base on July 11th, 2011.
The president has accepted moral responsibility because 'the person who has the responsibility to govern certainly has a responsibility, directly or indirectly,' he said.
"There have been many accidents in many countries but such a destructive war has never been incited against any Prime Minister or President," said Christofias in a speech on his domestic policies.
Christofias is referring to the sharp drop in his popularity after the explosion and the legal cases that the victims' families are trying to file against him for manslaughter. He has come under harsh - most say justified - criticism for delaying the destruction of the explosives that caused the blast at Mari, killing 13 men. In a public inquiry held in October 2011, Polys Polyviou said that President Demetris Christofias, former Defence Minister Costas Papacostas and former Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou carry personal and political responsibility for the deadly explosion at Evangelos Florakis naval base.
Christofias, as head of state, has the heaviest responsibility for the tragedy which took 13 lives, said Polyviou in a press conference in Nicosia back in October 2011.
But Christofias has denied this, saying "I want to stress that I am sorry for the loss of human lives; but I want to say candidly - and I have not yet spoken out - that I am not responsible for the loss of human lives," said Christofias in comments on the Polyviou inquiry.
Polyviou has declined to go into the matter of criminal charges, which are under the jurisdiction of Attorney-general Petros Clerides.
Following the police inquiry, indictments were issued against former foreign minister Markos Kyprianou, former defence minister Kostas Papakostas, former army chief Petros Tsalikides, assistant army chief Savvas Argyros, and officer George Georgiades, along with the chief and deputy chief of the fire service Andreas Nikolaou and Charalambos Charalambous and the commander of EMAK, Andreas Loizides. The president was not indicted or included in the police investigation due to his immunity from prosecution.
The blast was caused after munitions that were confiscated by the state from Iran en route to Syria in January 2009 were left exposed to the elements at Evangelos Florakis naval base until they exploded on July 11th, 2011. According to the public inquiry, the explosives were not destroyed or removed from the base because of political reasons. Those reasons had to do with the president's personal assurance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that they would not leave Cyprus and would be returned to Iran and Syria.
The independent inquiry into the explosion blamed President Demetris Christofias for delays in destroying the munitions, but it was not binding.
However, separate proceedings in front of the Supreme Court to remove the president's immunity are underway. The victims' families are trying to sue Christofias for negligent manslaughter, and hold him responsible for the deaths of their husbands and fathers.
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