The shocking fire at Nicosia Criminal Court on February 26th has left its ugly mark on the charred walls of the old sandstone building and on the court’s operations, which are still disturbed. Many cases are being held in nearby buildings because one of the courts was gutted in the fire. Puzzled lawyers frantically study the bulletin board with the judge’s assignments. There are piles of paper files tied with string stacked high in the information and filing rooms.

A casual inquiry to a nearby police officer reveals that the culprit responsible for the fire hasn’t been found. It wasn’t an explosion, he says, nodding agreement at the comment that it was shocking that someone could have so easily walked in and set a fire.

Press reports claim that foul play was ruled out, but this is hard to swallow. The blaze must have been fierce because the entire wing of the building is a shell. Official explanations are vague and also hard to swallow; we are expected to believe that a fire sparked up all by itself and triggered an explosion, and yet the police officer on duty says there was no explosion. Fingers are not being pointed at anyone in particular, which has an air of fearful avoidance. And while there appears to be a lot of police around as security for various trials, there seems to be little in the way of courthouse security. Coming and going in and out is casual and easy. The courtyard is wide open.

With arson a known method of intimidation in the underworld and gambling circles and the well-known problem with police corruption, the situation is at the least a security threat and at most a blatant threat to the law and those who practice it.