Army Officer Acquitted in Mari Explosion Trial
Former army officer George Georgiou has been acquitted of negligent manslaughter charges in connection with the explosion at Mari naval base on the request of the prosecutor, says a report on Sigmalive.com.
Larnaca district court found that others in the group of eight defendants on trial had more responsibility because they knew of the danger and did not warn anyone or evacuate the area. Georgiades will now be called as a prosecution witness.
The prosecution also decided to suspend its case against former army commander Petros Tsalikides, who will be tried instead in Greece.
That leaves indictments against former foreign minister Markos Kyprianou, former defence minister Kostas Papakostas, assistant army chief Savvas Argyros, along with the chief and deputy chief of the fire service Andreas Nikolaou and Charalambos Charalambous and the commander of EMAK, Andreas Loizides.
The decision to acquit Georgiades has proved to be controversial, with lawyer Chris Triantafyllides saying it was the exclusive decision of Attorney-general Petros Clerides who should state publicly why he decided to not to prosecute one of the defendants who is a central figure.The relatives of the 13 men who died in the explosion were upset and angry at the decision.
In public comments, Clerides responded that he was only obliged to inform the relatives of the 13 men who died in the blast. But the parents of 18-year-old twin brothers Miltos and Christos Christoforou who were killed in the explosion questioned the attorney general's decision, and said there were political reasons behind it. The fact that it has been almost one year since the tragedy before the trial started shows there is a continual process of shifting responsibility and hiding the real reasons behind their sons' deaths, they said in a letter to Clerides.
Opposition parties DIKO and DISY strongly criticised Clerides' decision. What is to prevent other defendants from being acquitted in the same way, asked DIKO in a statement. DISY said that Christofias has sacrificed his ministers to save himself and that the list of defendants continues to be reduced, confirming public opinion that the greatest tragedy since 1974 will go unpunished.
In comments to state radio, the attorney general defended his strategy, saying that a defendant could turn state witness if it was for the greater good of the case and if the 'bigger' culprits could be more successfully prosecuted.
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 a non-binding 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 assurance to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that they would not leave Cyprus and would be returned to Iran and Syria.
The president has not been indicted or questioned in the criminal investigation, because he is immune to prosecution. However, the victims' family members have petitioned the Supreme Court to remove his immunity before he leaves office.
Presidents can only be indicted in certain cases, including 'moral turpitude' or corruption.
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