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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-08-13

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


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Friday, August 13, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Israeli agents released from jail
  • [02] Minister confirms he will stand down
  • [03] Paphos Bishop says Logos to got to Mega
  • [04] Aftershocks continue as repairs get under way
  • [05] Report questions kidney specialists' explanations on drug shortage
  • [06] Prosecutors call for tourist to face assizes trial
  • [07] Cypriot students killed by drunk driver in New York

  • [01] Israeli agents released from jail

    By Charlie Charalambous

    TWO ISRAELI agents jailed for approaching a military area were yesterday whisked off the island in a private jet after President Clerides ordered their shock release.

    Udi Hargov, 37, and Igal Damary, 49, tasted freedom for the first time yesterday after serving only six months of a three-year prison sentence handed down in February by an Assize court.

    They were convicted of encroaching a restricted military area during covert Cypriot army operations in Zygi.

    A police convoy escorted the Israelis on the 60 kilometre trip from Nicosia Central Prison to Larnaca airport, where the two left Cyprus at 8.03am yesterday -- as secretly as they came -- on board a private plane.

    "There were no scheduled flights so we hired a small private plane which flew over from Israel," Israeli ambassador Shemi Tzur said in Nicosia.

    "They were so anxious to leave we arranged for a private plane from Israel, " he told the Cyprus Mail.

    The two Israeli intelligence officers boarded a Bravo Eco 9-L jet several hours before a decoy Israeli plane took off at midday from Larnaca.

    "Of course I'm very happy. I've waited for this decision for nine months," a relieved Tzur said once the agents were safe on Israeli soil.

    Once news broke out of their release, a storm of protest from opposition parties condemned the move as a "national humiliation" and a "surrender of the island's sovereignty".

    The story was top of the news agenda for all radio and TV broadcasts throughout the day, with most media outlets claiming the spies had been "let-off the hook".

    Although the general mood was that Cyprus had once again bowed to the pressure of a greater power, President Clerides explained in a statement that it had been in the island's "national interest" to free the Israelis.

    Justice Minister Nicos Koshis defended the controversial decision, saying: "it was a decision made by the government based on the Attorney-general's advice. There is nothing more to say."

    Of the few local officials available for comment, acting Attorney-general Nicos Charalambous told the Cyprus Mailthat Clerides had made his decision following a recommendation by Attorney-general Alecos Markides.

    "We made a submission to the President, according to the constitution, recommending a suspension of their sentence."

    He said the conditions of their release meant that Hargov and Damary had to leave Cyprus immediately by boat or plane.

    "And if they come back they would be arrested immediately and have to undergo the rest of their sentence," Charalambous warned.

    Clerides agreed to release the two agents in order to improve tarnished bilateral relations now that a new Israeli government was in place.

    "This gesture towards the friendly neighbouring state of Israel is made on the occasion of the assumption of power by the Barak government, which inaugurates a new period of friendly bilateral relations," the Clerides press release said.

    Sources said there was no political gain in keeping the duo behind bars once Cyprus had sent a clear message that it wouldn't be bullied into freeing them before they had served some time.

    There was nevertheless scathing criticism from local parties who did not agree that the release had served the national interest in any way.

    "The government completes our national humiliation with the release of the spies -- working covertly with all the decorum becoming the banana republic that we have become," said a statement from right-wing New Horizons.

    Left-wing Akel said the Clerides pardon was "unacceptable" and an act of "submission".

    The Israeli ambassador disagreed: "These two guys and their families have been punished enough... there is a new government, a new era and a peace process in the region," said Tzur.

    Although the ambassador denied Israel had put any pressure on Cyprus to release Hargov and Damary, he did say "a cloud has now been lifted, which prevented the visits of officials and delegations."

    Israel's new prime minister Enud Barak described the amnesty as "greatly appreciated by the people of Israel."

    Hargov and Damary were arrested on suspicion of spying in Zygi during a covert shipment of National Guard military equipment in the area last November.

    During their trial in Larnaca, they pleaded guilty to the charge of approaching a prohibited area after the more serious charges of spying against Cyprus were dropped.

    In their defence, the two Israelis were described as members of an "elite anti-terrorist organisation" trying to prevent acts of terrorism against Israel.

    Local public opinion still believes they were Mossad agents spying on behalf of Turkey, as their arrest came at a time when it was reported that Russian-made S-300 surface-to-air missiles were expected on the island.

    Turkey had threatened to strike the missiles if ever they were deployed, and a defence agreement signed by Ankara and Tel-Aviv provided for the exchange of military intelligence.

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    Friday, August 13, 1999

    [02] Minister confirms he will stand down

    By Martin Hellicar

    COMMUNICATIONS and Works Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou has tendered his resignation, prompting calls for an early cabinet reshuffle.

    Ierodiaconou yesterday confirmed what had for days been the worst kept secret in local politics: that he was abandoning his post. He released a resignation letter he sent to President Clerides on July 28, in which he states he wishes to be relieved of his duties by mid-September.

    On Saturday, in the face of rampant speculation about a cabinet reshuffle, President Clerides said he would not even be thinking about the matter till November.

    But yesterday's publicisation of Ierodiaconou's decision to choose a research post at a foreign university over his ministerial seat may now force the President's hand.

    Sofoklis Hadjiyiannis, a deputy for ruling Disy, yesterday called on the president to make his reshuffle move.

    "It is now clear that the President must fill this (Ierodiakonou's) position and I definitely consider it is a chance to move on to a reshuffle, " Hadjiyianis, who is also a member of the Disy political office, said.

    Right-wing Disy are Clerides's main backers.

    In a statement released yesterday, Ierodiaconou made it clear he was resigning for purely "personal" reasons.

    "My withdrawal from the post of minister cannot and should not be linked to any disagreement or clash of political nature," Ierodiaconou stated.

    Ierodiaconou, considered one of Clerides's most capable ministers, added that his decision to leave should not in any way be linked to a possible reshuffle.

    In his resignation letter, Ierodiaconou states that he has provisionally accepted a part-time research post at an unspecified foreign university that would mean he was frequently absent from Cyprus.

    "For this reason alone Mr. President, I ask you please accept my resignation from the post of Minister of Communications and Works," Ierodiaconou says in his letter.

    He adds that he is willing to hand over his office immediately or whenever the President considers most convenient, but notes that his academic commitments begin in mid-September.

    The President is expected to bring new faces to his cabinet in an effort to improve his government's image, tarnished by a series of scandals.

    The favourite for the chop in any reshuffle is Government spokesman Costas Serezis, who burnt his bridges by publicly sparring with Disy leader Nicos Anasstasiades. Disy deputy Prodromos Prodromou is favourite to replace him.

    Defence Minister Yiannakis Chrisostomis is also widely expected to get the chop. Embarrassing revelations about the army running dangerously low on ammunition and using the wrong fuel in its battle tanks for three years have done the former judge no favours.

    The names of former Government spokesman Christos Stylianides and Disy deputy Antonis Karas are being mentioned as Chrisostomis' possible replacements.

    Health Minister Christos Solomis is also unlikely to stay. The scandalous disappearance of vital kidney drugs from hospitals, still under investigation, has done no favours for a minister already perceived as uncaring by both public and press.

    Androula Vassiliou, of junior government partners the United Democrats, is odds-on favourite to succeed Solomis.

    Hadjiyiannis said yesterday Disy and Clerides wanted to create a broad- based government. But with past invitations to opposition parties falling on deaf ears, it is likely new cabinet faces will be predominantly of Disy or UD persuasion.

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    Friday, August 13, 1999

    [03] Paphos Bishop says Logos to got to Mega

    By Athena Karsera

    PAPHOS Bishop Chrysostomos yesterday said that Logos television had been rented to Greece's Mega channel, adding he felt the move had not been properly thought out.

    The unofficial announcement followed weeks of speculation over which company the Church-owned channel would be leased to.

    Speaking to reporters, Chrysostomos said that, according to his sources, a contract had already been signed and Mega would begin broadcasting in Cyprus on September 12.

    "My information is that Logos has already been handed over and that a contract has been signed. But I heard this through the grape-vine and I haven't confirmed it yet, so I can't say anything officially. However, I can say that a rental contract has been signed with Mega channel."

    In its bid to the Church, Mega promised to keep 70 per cent of the station's current staff and fully equip the channel for the full 10 years' rental.

    Chrysostomos said yesterday that, "Not all the necessary studies were carried out to decide whether the Church should keep it's channel," and that the rest of the Church had been kept in the dark about the Archbishop's decisions on the matter.

    "He did not ask us, he did not ask anyone. As to whether he's allowed to do this, ask him."

    Chrysostomos said the issue would not be discussed by the Holy Synod unless one of the members specifically raised it, adding that he would not be the one to do so.

    Mega had jostled with Skai and a third unnamed party as contenders to operate Logos.

    Both Skai and the third company have in the past said that they had reached agreements with the Archbishop.

    Skai has demanded the return its downpayment after the Archbishop continued negotiations with the other companies.

    Logos' director-general is said to have resigned over the Archbishop's treatment of Skai. The Archbishop returned the 500,000 downpayment to Skai earlier this week.

    The Archbishop's lawyer, Aris Hadjipanayiotou, has denied that any agreement was made with Skai, but confirmed last Friday that Mega had submitted as second, higher, bid.

    The third company's lawyer said last week that Archbishop Chrysostomos had signed an April 26 agreement with the party he was representing, and threatened to sue if any other deal was signed.

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    Friday, August 13, 1999

    [04] Aftershocks continue as repairs get under way

    By Martin Hellicar

    A SERIES of aftershock "reminders" of Wednesday's strong quake shook the island yesterday.

    The Geological Survey department stated a total of 44 aftershocks had been recorded between 8pm on Wednesday and 7.30am yesterday. The strongest of these, measuring 4.6 on the Richter scale, was felt in Limassol and Nicosia at 11pm on Wednesday, over 15 hours after the quake, measuring 5.8 on the Richter scale, rocked Cyprus.

    Hundreds of buildings -- mostly in the Limassol area -- were damaged by the quake, but injuries were few and generally not serious.

    There was no damage reported from the aftershocks, but experts said they could have further weakened buildings cracked by the main tremor. In Limassol, the aftershocks prompted a number of residents to spend the night camping out on the beach.

    State Seismologist Kyriacos Solomis said aftershocks were a normal phenomenon following an earthquake and could be expected to continue for the next few days.

    Most of the 44 aftershocks were not strong enough to be felt, measuring between 2 and 3.9 on the Richter scale. Five of the tremors, measuring between 4 and 4.3 on the Richter scale, were felt in the Limassol area alone. The epicentre of Wednesday's quake was at Gerasa, North of Limassol.

    The job of recording damages caused by the earthquake in Limassol and seven surrounding villages continued yesterday. The count of affected buildings topped 1,000, but only 100 of these suffered serious structural damage.

    A number of homes have been evacuated to allow time for repairs, including a two-storey apartment block in Yermasogia.

    Evacuated residents are being put up in local hotels. The state is to foot the bill for all necessary home repairs.

    Cyprus lies in an active earthquake zone and is not unused to tremors.

    In February 1995, two people were killed when an earthquake measuring 5.7 on the Richter scale hit the Paphos area. In October 1996 a quake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale caused little damage and no fatalities.

    Experts say seismic activity in the region is coming to the end of a 10- year "active" cycle and should peter out in the next two years. All government authorities have dismissed suggestions recent quakes represent a "build-up" towards a "big" quake.

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    Friday, August 13, 1999

    [05] Report questions kidney specialists' explanations on drug shortage

    By Athena Karsera

    A LEAKED report by medical services director Dr Costas Mallis has questioned a top kidney specialist's explanations as to why Nicosia general hospital ran out of a life-enhancing medicine.

    The disappearance of the kidney drug erythropoetine has been linked to allegations that it was used to dope horses at the Nicosia racetrack.

    The report -- whose authenticity was yesterday confirmed to the Cyprus Mailby Dr Mallis himself -- cast doubt on explanations given by the head of Nicosia general hospital's kidney ward, Dr Alkis Pierides.

    Mallis said he did not know how the report had ended up in the papers, but he confirmed that it had been quoted accurately. He declined to comment on the accusations against Dr Pierides, "as investigations are continuing and it would not be fair to say anything."

    Details of Dr Mallis' report appeared in two newspapers yesterday, and seemed to incriminate the head of the Nicosia general hospital's kidney department, Dr Pierides, as being partly responsible for the shortage.

    Dr Pierides is currently in London accompanying Akel General secretary Demetris Christofias, who underwent a kidney transplant operation yesterday. He was unavailable to respond to the allegations.

    The report said that "in the months from November 1998 to April 1999 there was a discrepancy between the amount of erythropoetine received by the Kidney Department, and the units of erythropoetine that were given to patients, (a discrepancy) that lies between 22 per cent and 30 per cent, depending on the average weekly dose."

    The report said that, "during these months, the total number of patients that were given erythropoetine was 615. According to testimony from Dr Alkis Pierides, it is stated that the average weekly dose was 4,061 I.U. (international units). The total number of units of the medicine that should be given for 615 patients if the average weekly dose was 4,061 I.U. should have been 10,764,289 I.U. The units of erythropoetine that were given by the pharmacy at Nicosia General Hospital for that same period were 15,314,000, which represents a discrepancy of 30 per cent."

    Pierides told investigators that the deficit was partly due to the fact that not enough erythropoetine had been ordered, but in his report, Mallis appears far from convinced: "Dr Pierides said that although 10,480 doses of 4,000 I.U., and 9,000 doses of 5,000 I.U. were requested... (only) 9,600 doses of 2,000 I.U. were finally purchased. Indeed, mathematically 1,600 too few doses were purchased. But if the amount of the drug is added up in international units, then there were actually 1,200,000 more (I.Us) than were requested. So this argument is dismissed as groundless, and I can't accept Dr Pierides' reasoning that 15 per cent less amounts were purchased."

    Dr Mallis was called to submit an investigative report to Health Minister Christos Solomis after it was revealed in June that Nicosia general hospital's supplies of erythropoetine had run out while stocks at the rest of the island's hospitals had run dangerously low.

    The inquiry was carried out on Ombudsman Eliana Nicolaou's suggestion, with Dr Mallis investigating how the shortage came about.

    Solomis earlier this month made parts of Dr Mallis' report public, confirming that there had been a 26 per cent deficit in Nicosia general hospital's supply of erythropoetine.

    Dr Mallis' inquiry covered the seven months preceding the date when the medicine ran out, from November 1998 to May this year, uncovering the 26 per cent deficit.

    The missing drugs cost the Health Ministry 22,000, Solomis said, noting that the black market value was much higher.

    Announcing the results of the inquiry earlier this month, Solomis said he had ordered an investigation of two Ministry pharmacies in connection with the disappearance of the kidney drug.

    Solomis said he had given Senior Medical Officer Dr Andreas Demosthenous the task of uncovering possible negligence by two officers of two of the ministry's pharmacies.

    Solomis said the two pharmacy officers should have alerted the Ministry of Health in writing of the drastic drop in erythropoetine stocks long before the stocks ran out in June.

    According to Dr Mallis' findings, Solomis said, the shortage could have been avoided if the order for new supplies of the drug had requested 25 per cent more than was ordered in 1998.

    He also noted that if some supplies had not disappeared, stocks of the drug would have been sufficient to cover the quota for at least two and a half months after the medicine ran out.

    The police, meanwhile, are investigating allegations that the missing medicine -- which is not available in private clinics -- was siphoned from government stocks and sold for use in doping horses at Nicosia Racetrack and are checking whether the tender process to order the medicine was carried out legally.

    Tenders were put out in February with March 19 as the closing date, but the contract was only signed on June 15 after the medicine had already run out in Nicosia.

    The delay is said to have been caused by a court appeal by one supplier against the award of the tender to another, on grounds the appellant's bid was lower than the bid of the company that eventually won the tender.

    Erythropoetine is used to improve kidney patients' quality of life and is usually applied after they have undergone dialysis.

    In her report, Ombudsman Nicolaou -- who took up the matter at the request of the New Horizons Party -- said the Health Ministry had been slow to secure fresh supplies of the missing drug, even though it was aware of the urgent need.

    New Horizons, which has called for Solomis' resignation over the scandal, yesterday accused him of mishandling the matter, and demanded a full criminal investigation into it.

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    Friday, August 13, 1999

    [06] Prosecutors call for tourist to face assizes trial

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A LARNACA district court will decide today whether a British tourist is to face trial before the Assizes in connection with the attack on a Cypriot chef.

    The prosecution requested that Gavin Kieran Gallimore, from Southgate in north London, be committed to trial for causing grievous bodily harm to cook Loucas Ioannou.

    The 30-year-old was arrested in Ayia Napa last week following the vicious attack on Ioannou at the Black and White disco.

    The formal charge sheet was submitted before the court yesterday with the state prosecution demanding the pre-trial hearing be by-passed for proceedings to start before the Assizes in Larnaca on September 20.

    In order to facilitate proceedings, the defence was issued with the copies of prosecution witness testimonies.

    There was no change in Ioannou's condition yesterday, with Nicosia General hospital still describing his condition as "critical".

    He is still on a ventilator at the hospital and doctors said there had been no improvement in his condition since he underwent surgery for a fractured skull.

    The incident happened after Ioannou accidentally bumped into the suspect in the packed disco.

    Gallimore, a quantity surveyor, is then alleged to have punched the chef and slammed his head on the disco bar before the 28-year-old collapsed to the floor.

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    Friday, August 13, 1999

    [07] Cypriot students killed by drunk driver in New York

    TWO CYPRIOTS studying in the United States have been killed by a drunk driver who ploughed into them as they were changing a tyre on their car.

    Nicholas Aristodimou, 25, from Pano Lefkara, and Yiannis Petevinos, 30, from Kato Zodia, had both been studying accountancy in New York.

    They were on their way out of town for a fishing trip on Tuesday, when they were forced to stop on the side of the highway to change a flat tyre. As they did so, they were hit by an oncoming car.

    The driver, who apparently did not notice the two students, drove into them and dragged them along the road for several metres. He is understood to have been over the legal alcohol limit.

    The two students were immediately taken to hospital by helicopter but Aristodimou succumbed to his injuries while he was being transferred. Petevinos died a short while later.

    Aristodimou, son of the former deputy mayor of Lefkara Aristodimos Aristodimou, had just completed his studies and had planned to return to Cyprus on holiday, before embarking on a postgraduate course.

    When his mother was told of his death on Wednesday morning, she suffered a nervous breakdown and had to be taken to hospital.

    The remains of the two young men will be returned to Cyprus towards the end of the week for their funerals.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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