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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-16

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Tuesday, February 16, 1999


  • [01] Riot beatings: police inspector to be charged
  • [02] Pickets up in court as strike enters third week
  • [03] Shares continue fall from last week's highs
  • [04] Minister expects no problems on missile talks in Russia
  • [05] Clerides hits all time low in poll
  • [06] Police chief order probe into leak of witness testimony
  • [07] Faithful flock behind Athanasios
  • [08] Off-duty policemen accused of assaults
  • [09] Mukhtar held after hit-and-run crash
  • [10] Health Ministry plans to step up cancer screening programme
  • [11] Store denies wrongdoing in selling cigarettes to children
  • [12] Government orders two farms to stop sale of eggs after poisoning

  • [01] Riot beatings: police inspector to be charged

    By Charlie Charalambous

    RIOT POLICE caught by television cameras brutally beating African immigrants during a riot at Larnaca holding cells last October will escape prosecution.

    But the senior officer in charge of the whole police operation, inspector Haralambos Mavros, will be charged with dereliction of duty, Attorney- general Alecos Markides said at a news conference yesterday.

    In a further twist to the story, Markides also announced that those boat people still detained at the Larnaca holding cells and the Pefkos hotel in Limassol had been deported to Nigeria early yesterday morning.

    The 30 Nigerians deported were among 42 boat people still on the island ever since they arrived on the Syrian-registered trawler Ridallah, which sailed from the Lebanese port of Tripoli last June. Some 113 sick and starving boat people were brought ashore and detained after drifting for nine days in the Mediterranean without food or water.

    Although Markides said there was not sufficient evidence to prosecute riot police who took part in quelling the disturbance, he believed there were grounds for charging the man responsible for overseeing the botched operation. "In my opinion, it is justified that the person handling the operation should be made responsible," Markides said.

    He said that, despite testimony from the victims, none of the police officers involved could be individually identified because their faces had been covered with gas masks at the time because of the use of tear gas. "We saw footage of those wearing masks hitting immigrants, but the immigrants who gave evidence could not identify the culprits," said the Attorney- general.

    Markides also suggested that police had closed ranks to stifle the investigation against its own members. "All those involved wore gas masks and they decided to keep silent, which is their constitutional right, so therefore it was not possible to identify who struck the violent blows," Markides said.

    Talking about yesterday's dawn deportation, Markides said that some 50 policemen had had to accompany the 30 Nigerians, because two or three had tried to break an aircraft window. "For security reasons, one police officer was handcuffed to each immigrant to prevent any further trouble after an isolated incident by two or three troublemakers," Markides said.

    The specially-chartered Eurocypria plane carrying them refuelled at Cairo just before midday and then continued to Lagos. "Everything was done with the complete agreement of the Nigerian government," the Attorney-general said.

    Around 10 people, including one policeman, were injured during last October's violence when riot police stormed the holding cells to restore order. The government, shocked by TV footage of riot police viciously kicking, stomping and clubbing the detainees, ordered an investigation.

    Markides then appointed no less than six criminal investigators to collect evidence; they submitted their findings last December.

    "According to their conclusions, an offence was committed on behalf of the police, which involved common assault and causing actual bodily harm," Markides said.

    He said he would have liked the support of tighter legislation on issues of this kind. "There is no such thing as collective guilt under the law, so there will no legal proceedings against any of the policemen," said Markides. "There is a problem... but I hope we won't have a repeat of this incident."

    The Attorney-general also revealed yesterday that those who had suffered injury during the clashes had received compensation in cash before being deported yesterday. "The victims were compensated with sums of between $300 and $1,000 in accordance with the injuries suffered."

    Markides said the total compensation bill was in the region of 10,000. "All those given compensation made a declaration that they were satisfied with the payment and had no other demands on the Cyprus Republic."

    Twelve of the remaining boat people (including five Kurds) will give evidence in the court proceedings to follow and have been given temporary work and residence permits. Inspector Mavros faces up to two years behind bars if convicted of dereliction of duty.

    Mavros later told CyBC radio that he respected Markides' decision to pursue action against him, but was confident that his name would be cleared in any trial.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [02] Pickets up in court as strike enters third week

    By Athena Karsera

    STRIKES at two Larnaca hotels entered their third week yesterday as flower- bearing pickets appeared before Larnaca Court accused of violating court orders taken out by the hotels' owners.

    In an apparent nod to Valentine's Day, the 34 picketing hotel-workers and 12 union representatives appeared in court carrying roses and carnations.

    The 46 appeared in Court after being issued with a summons for blocking the entrances to the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels on Friday. The previous day, Lordos Holdings, which owns both hotels, took out court orders prohibiting strikers from obstructing the entrances.

    In perhaps the largest group trial ever in Cyprus, the lawyer representing the hotel workers and unions, deputy Tassos Papadopoulos, told presiding judge Elena Ephraim that his clients would appeal against the court orders and request modifications.

    Papadopoulos argued the pickets had respected the 1965 law on striking and had been demonstrating peacefully.

    He also claimed that the list of those summoned included names of people not even present at the demonstration, including Sek's assistant secretary- general Demetris Kittenis.

    The Court decided that the court orders would remain in effect until February 25, when the workers' appeals would be heard.

    Both union and employer agreed that a paragraph should be added to the court orders saying that "workers' rights would be protected in accordance to the 1965 law number 71 (on the right to strike)".

    Other elements of the court orders will remain as they are until February 25. These include provisions preventing pickets from blocking the hotel entrances either in person or with objects. Pickets are also prohibited from disrupting the hotels from running smoothly and acting in any way "inappropriately".

    Speaking after his court appearance, Kittenis said "Labour differences cannot be solved in Court. They are solved with both sides respecting the collective agreements which are freely signed by unions and employers, and the labour laws which are approved by the unions before appearing before the House."

    He said both his union and Peo agreed that the dispute should be solved through these avenues and that, "as long as the management side won't join in discussions and lays down conditions, we are obliged to help the workers."

    Sek's hotel representative Nicos Epistethiou, meanwhile, yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that strike action would continue as announced on Friday, "until we have a real reason to stop."

    The union plans include strike action spreading to all Larnaca hotels and then onto other towns.

    Constantinos Lordos of Lordos Holdings on Saturday told Labour Minster Andreas Moushiouttas that management was willing to talk to unions on two conditions.

    "The first condition is that we don't alter our dismissal of the employees because it is our right to dismiss employees," Lordos said.

    The second condition was that talks would begin and continue, "only as long as peace and legality are maintained."

    Lordos added that his company was willing to discuss finding jobs for those dismissed.

    Statements by Peo's secretary general Avraam Antoniou seemed to indicate a softening in the union stance when he said on Saturday that his side was willing to go to the negotiating table without setting any conditions.

    A Lordos Holdings letter to shareholders had a different tone. Released on Saturday, the letter said the company was planning to sue strikers and unions for losses incurred during the strikes.

    The strikes began at the beginning of the month following the dismissal of 73 workers from the two hotels and a third, which has been closed for winter.

    The dismissals came management turned over three sections of each hotel to private contractors, in an effort to cut costs. Lordos Holdings defended the decision saying the company had incurred steady losses over the last few years.

    Meanwhile, the strike at Larnaca Harbour continued yesterday despite negotiations beginning with Moushiouttas at the end of last week.

    Peo's harbour representative Costas Christodoulou yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that the unions had decided to postpone a planned march to the Presidential Palace. He said that the decision had been taken in view of Moushiouttas' continuing efforts. He said that the unions expected a meeting with the Labour Minister today or tomorrow after Moushiouttas' meeting with Shipping agencies yesterday.

    The object of the meeting was to discuss cutting costs at the harbour, which was the main point of contention at a Friday meeting with unions.

    After the meeting, Moushiouttas told reporters that the unions wanted alternative work for the surplus staff set to lose their jobs once the port is turned into a leisure harbour. He added that workers also wanted compensation for the staff to be outlined by April 15.

    One hundred and fifty harbour workers and stevedores have been striking for almost three weeks in protest at the port's uncertain future and their lack of work.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [03] Shares continue fall from last week's highs

    By Hamza Hendawi

    SHARE PRICES yesterday resumed their fall from last week's dizzying highs, with the official all-share index plunging by 1.35 per cent to close at 116.72. The index also closed in negative territory on Friday, when it shed 4.60 per cent.

    But the back-to-back falls have left only a small dent in a spectacular rally that has seen share prices soar by more than 20 per cent since the start of the year. In fact, some traders said the falls yesterday and on Friday would help consolidate prices at levels not far below the extraordinary highs of last week.

    "The fall is healthy because prices cannot go up for ever," commented Costas Anastassiades of Laiki Investments, the brokerage of the Popular Bank. "There was a lot of profit-taking."

    The rally has largely been on the back of the Bank of Cyprus and Popular Bank shares, the market's supremo stocks, which between them account for more than 50 per cent of its capitalisation.

    Bank of Cyprus, the larger of the two, is awaiting the resolution of legal wrangles in Greece to gain a listing on the buzzing Athens Stock Exchange. The Popular Bank, meanwhile, has declared its intention to follow suit through the European Popular Bank, the name under which it operates in Greece.

    The prospects of such moves are widely viewed to be responsible for the enhanced interest in their stocks, according to traders.

    Bank of Cyprus closed yesterday at 5.37, 10 cents below Friday's close. The Popular Bank shed 12 cents to end the day pegged at 5.24. Hellenic Bank, a distant third in the island's banking hierarchy, finished the day at 3.21, 5.5 cents down on Friday's close.

    The value of trade in the banks' shares totalled 4.72 million and the sector's sub-index fell by 1.99 per cent to 144.13.

    The value of yesterday's entire trade was a respectable 8.24 million. Only two sub-indices closed in positive territory - Tourism and trading companies -while the rest plunged, by as much as 5.28 per cent in the case of investment companies.

    The unusual activity in the market and the prospect of a quick profit appear to have captured the imagination of many Cypriots in recent days and attracted back speculators who had abandoned the market.

    The small area set aside for investors on the market's floor was packed yesterday, as it has been for most of last week. Beside the 100 or so who were able to squeeze into the investors' area, a few more were left in the foyer unable to get in.

    The atmosphere was suitably charged, with traders shouting orders and screaming into their cellular phones. Trading appeared to intensify shortly before the end of the 90-minute session, with the value of trade shooting by about two million pounds in a matter of minutes.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [04] Minister expects no problems on missile talks in Russia

    THERE should be no problems with Russia over the deployment of the S-300 missiles on Crete, Defence Minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis said yesterday.

    Speaking on his departure for Moscow, Chrysostomis added that he would put forward a proposal for amendments to the agreement for technical backing when he meets with his Russian counterpart Igor Sergeyev. The two will also discuss "issues of mutual interest."

    Last week in Athens, Chrysostomis signed an agreement with his Greek counterpart Akis Tzohatzopoulos finalising the deployment of the missiles in Crete.

    Tzohatzopoulos is expected to lead a Greek delegation joining Chrysostomis in Russia to finalise logistic details for the delivery of the missiles to Crete.

    President Clerides cancelled the deployment of the long-range anti-aircraft missiles to Cyprus last December under sustained international pressure and repeated Turkish threats of military action if the S-300s were ever brought to the island.

    On Sunday, the Russian news agency Interfax said that the makers of the missiles saw no problems in altering the contract with Cyprus.

    Interfax quoted Grigory Raporta, head of Rozvooruzhenie, Russia's main arms exporter, as saying: "We only have to reregister some of the clauses of the contract."

    Yesterday, a Rozvooruzhenie spokesman told the ITAR-Tass news agency that it had already received 90 per cent of the contract sum. The remainder would be paid upon the missiles' delivery, he said.

    While Chrysostomis is in Russia, Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides is in New York, where he yesterday exchanged views with leading members of the American Greek community.

    Today, Cassoulides will meet with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and US Presidential Emissary on Cyprus Richard Holbrooke. He then leaves for Washington, where he will meet US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tomorrow.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [05] Clerides hits all time low in poll

    By Charlie Charalambous

    PRESIDENT Clerides has hit rock bottom in public confidence according to a new opinion poll.

    What is more worrying for the crisis-hit government is that Clerides is the most unpopular president since the Republic was established 39 years ago.

    Less than half the electorate now believes that Clerides - now in his second term - is doing a good job, according to a poll published by Politis newspaper.

    With the government seemingly in free fall, political pundits believe a cabinet shake-up is only a matter of weeks away.

    In the Politis poll, Clerides' popularity rating could only reach 32 per cent, some way behind the last record holder in the mid-1980s, Spyros Kyprianou, who garnered 36 per cent at the height of his unpopularity.

    When asked if Clerides was doing a good job of running the country, 52 per cent replied in the negative and a further 16 per cent declined to answer.

    Clerides' popularity peaked when he declared the Russian S-300 missile deal in December 1997, and his standing has plummeted in equal measure since he called off their deployment last December.

    It is Clerides' consistent bad performance in the polls which has fuelled media speculation that a major cabinet reshuffle is imminent.

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides has conceded on several occasions that the Clerides administration is struggling to repair its negative public image.

    The president's letter to the party leaders, calling for consensus on key issues like increasing VAT and privatisation, is seen as part of the image- building process.

    On the plus side, both opposition parties Akel and Edek said yesterday they were prepared to enter into a dialogue on principle.

    However, the Politis poll suggests that Clerides needs a rapid change in fortune if he is not to be burdened with the stigma of failure for the remainder of his tenure.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [06] Police chief order probe into leak of witness testimony

    By Martin Hellicar

    POLICE chief Andreas Angelides yesterday ordered an investigation into the leaking of a testimony concerning the Hambis Aeroporos murder case.

    The investigation comes after ANT1 television, during a main evening news bulletin last week, revealed what it said was the content of testimony given to police by 35-year-old Prokopis Prokopi. The Limassol waiter is expected to be the chief prosecution witness in the trial of four suspects, including two police officers, arrested in connection with the shooting of 35-year-old gangland figure Hambis Aeroporos on December 16 last year.

    According to a police announcement yesterday, the police chief wants to know if the leak came from within the police force.

    Angelides also wants to know how ANT1 television managed to record a telephone interview with Prokopi, who is in police custody. The interview was aired by ANT1 - a channel with a reputation for uncovering crime "exclusives" - last week.

    Angelides has also ordered an investigation into how police information about the movements of underworld figures had been leaked to the press.

    But police noted that the source of the leaks need not have been from within the force, pointing out that the relevant information had also been passed on to "other officials".

    "So police were not the only possible source for the leak of the documents, " the police statement read.

    Five suspects, including Prokopi, have been charged in connection with Hambis' murder.

    The other four suspects are policeman Christos Symianos, 35, special constable Savvas Ioannou, alias Kinezos, 33, nightclub owner Sotiris Athinis, 43, and his sister, 51-year-old hospital cleaner Zoe Alexandrou.

    The accused will reply to the charges on Thursday when they will appear before the Assizes court in Limassol.

    Three hooded gunmen shot Hambis in broad daylight on the old Ypsonas to Limassol road last December.

    The killing is thought to be part of a long-running underworld feud between Larnaca and Limassol gangs vying for control of lucrative gambling, narcotics and prostitution rackets. The gangland turf war has claimed a dozen lives in three years.

    Hambis's 32-year-old brother, Andros, was shot outside a Limassol cabaret on July 31, just weeks after he, Hambis and their brother Panicos, 25, had been acquitted of the attempted murder of Larnaca gambling club owner Antonis Fanieros, 57, on May 29, 1997.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [07] Faithful flock behind Athanasios

    THE FAITHFUL flocked to Athanasios's first church service as Limassol Bishop yesterday, suggesting that the Holy Synod is alone in being divided over his election.

    Athanasios' enthronement as Bishop on Sunday was soured by the failure to turn up of the Bishops of Paphos and Kyrenia, Chrysostomos and Pavlos, and the suffragan Bishops of Arsinoe and Salamina, Georgios and Varnavas.

    Bishop Chrysostomos was never expected to attend - having done his best to scupper Athanasios' election by claiming his 80-year-old Mount Athos mentor was a pervert. But the absence of the other three Synod members spoke of a deep rift within the Church's top body.

    Athanasios, formerly abbot of Machairas, may be the people's favourite - he won a landslide election victory - but he would appear to be by no means assured of a warm welcome at Synod meetings. The outspoken Bishop Chrysostomos has already made it clear he will not sit next to the new Limassol Bishop on the synod.

    Father Georgios has echoed Bishop Chrysostomos' misgivings about Athanasios' "moral fibre" but the reasons for the other two absentees' objections are less clear.

    Bishop Athanasios' first service yesterday morning attracted an unusually large number of young people, enhancing his reputation as a cleric with uncommon youth appeal.

    The Bishop elections were called in November last year after former Bishop Chrysanthos was suspended for his alleged involvement in over 30 financial scams in Cyprus and abroad.

    Bishop Chrysostomos has alleged that Athanasios' mentor, elder Iosif of Vatopedhi monastery, molested nuns and young girls during his stay in Paphos 17 years ago. The Bishop's sordid claims were upheld by a Holy Synod investigation, but Vatopedhi monastery has threatened to sue Chrysostomos for libel.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [08] Off-duty policemen accused of assaults

    TWO TRAFFIC policemen were yesterday being investigated on suspicion of assaulting members of the public.

    According to a police announcement, off-duty Nicosia officers Andreas Constantinou, 29, and Stavros Kyriacou, 25, were involved in separate violent incidents on Sunday.

    Traffic officer Constantinou got into a fight with another motorist after their cars collided on Grivas Digenis avenue in the early hours of Sunday morning, police said. Both the other driver, Phivos Iacovou from Nicosia, and the officer were treated in Nicosia general hospital for minor injuries after the brawl.

    Both men complained to police of assault by the other.

    The second incident occurred at about 3.30am in a Nicosia pub, police said. Five people allegedly assaulted 27-year-old Paleometocho villager Costas Papaeleftheriou, causing him actual bodily harm.

    Kyriacou was among the five youths, all of whom were later arrested, charged with assault and released, police said.

    Police spokesman Stelios Neophytou said both incidents were still being investigated yesterday.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [09] Mukhtar held after hit-and-run crash

    A 61-YEAR-OLD villager was killed after a hit-and-run accident on Sunday involving the Mukhtar of another village. At around 11.15am on Sunday, Pavlos Papageorgiou from Monagrouli village was riding his dirtbike on the old Nicosia to Limassol road.

    Just past the Kalavassos bridge, he was - under unknown circumstances - knocked off the bike by a 4x4 pick-up truck driven by Christos Neophytou, 69, the Mukhtar of Aglisides village.

    Neophytou left the scene of the accident, but his truck's number plate came off during the impact and police found it at the scene. He was called to Kofinou police station, where he was arrested and taken in for questioning.

    Papageorgiou was taken to Limassol General Hospital where he was pronounced dead. He had a crash helmet with him, but was not wearing it at the time of the crash.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [10] Health Ministry plans to step up cancer screening programme

    THE HEALTH Ministry yesterday celebrated the first anniversary of an innovative plan aimed at preventing cancer in women and cancer of the womb in particular.

    The plan involves inviting women between the ages of 25 and 65 to have a complete gynaecological examination, pap-test and breast examination, free of charge. The government will pay private gynaecologists 20 for each women they see.

    Currently aimed at rural areas, where awareness of medical issues is more limited, the plan allows women to visit the gynaecologist of their choice.

    Women in the specified age-group receive a letter outlining the plan. They are told that in order to receive the tests they must take the letter and identification to a gynaecologist. There is no time limit for women to take up the offer.

    Health Minister Christos Solomis told a news conference yesterday that the programme would be extended to urban areas within the next two years. The ministry also plans to add free mammograms to the scheme.

    Currently, if an irregularity is detected during the breast examination, the woman involved would be referred to a general hospital or clinic for a mammogram and would have to pay for any expenses.

    Solomis also expressed disappointment in the number of responses to the Health Ministry's invitation. In the period from November 1997 to the end of 1998 invitations were sent to women in 104 of the island's 356 villages.

    Solomis said that 4,259 women had responded to the invitation, a disappointing 29 per cent of those contacted. He put this down to "Cypriot neglect when it comes to what they see as non-urgent health matters." Solomis hoped that heightened media exposure would prompt women to be more conscientious.

    In his address, Solomis stressed that cancer of the womb was the most frequently found cancer in the female genetic system.

    He said that an average of 40 new cases were reported every year. Of the 4, 259 women tested, 418 had received medication and 51 underwent surgery. Eight were found to have already developed cancer.

    Also contributing to the programme are the Pancyprian Doctors' Association, women's health organisations and the Communities Union.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [11] Store denies wrongdoing in selling cigarettes to children

    A NICOSIA department store is selling cigarettes to under-age children, claiming there is no legal age limit for tobacco sales.

    The Cyprus Mail witnessed a child of no more than ten purchasing cigarettes at the store on Ledra Street.

    When asked about this practice, a store manager told the Mail there was no law barring sales of tobacco to children.

    "There is no (relevant) law," he said. "We are not allowed to block sales to anyone. How are we to know the cigarettes are not being bought for someone's father?" he added.

    Police spokesman Stelios Neophytou confirmed yesterday that, by law, cigarettes cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 14.

    "If we refuse to sell cigarettes to someone, we could find ourselves in a situation where someone could come and complain to us that we wouldn't sell to them," the store manager said.

    The store manager said his was not the only shop selling tobacco to children. "All shops and newsagents do it," he said.

    A number of recent surveys have revealed a growth in the number of under- age smokers on the island, with even primary-school age children picking up the habit.

    Tuesday, February 16, 1999

    [12] Government orders two farms to stop sale of eggs after poisoning

    THE GOVERNMENT has halted the sale of eggs from two Limassol-area poultry farms, following mass Salmonella poisoning of as many as 40 people after eating cakes from the same Limassol bakery, the Health Ministry said yesterday.

    All but a few of the victims, most of whom were children at the same birthday party, have been treated and released by Limassol General Hospital, the Ministry announcement said.

    An official investigation into the near-tragedy, which occurred between February 8 and 14, is expected to be completed and its results made known by Friday, the announcement indicated.

    To protect the public, the Ministry ordered all egg production halted at the two farms until the investigation was completed.

    Physicians and nurses at Limassol General Hospital declined to say exactly how many of the food-poisoning victims were still in hospital, or to identify any of them.

    Neither the hospital nor the Health Ministry identified the bakery or the two poultry farms involved.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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