|Thursday, 22 February 2024
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-11-17
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
 Itís official: deport and be damnedBy Martin Hellicar
IT'S OFFICIAL: foreigners implicated in a crime, even in the absence of sufficient evidence to prosecute, face deportation. The Director-general of the Interior Ministry, Andreas Panayiotou, said yesterday that police more often than not recommend deportation of foreign suspects they cannot convict. He said Attorney-general Alecos Markides usually approves such police requests.
Panayiotou was commenting on a damning Ombudswoman's report into the deportation in September of a Russian Greek, or Pontian. The report, released on Monday, describes how father-of-two Georgios Politides was deported a month after he was arrested on suspicion of theft, even though he was never charged.
Ombudswoman Eleana Nicolaou, who described the deportation as blatantly racist, noted that Politides was expelled six days before his appeal against the deportation order was due to be heard by the Supreme Court.
"I wouldn't say it was commonplace, but when foreigners are implicated in illegal acts, police have always -- given the approval of the Attorney-general, and this repeatedly has been given -- suggested they not be prosecuted, when there is not enough evidence to do so, but deported. I am talking about foreigners (in general), not just Pontians," Panayiotou said yesterday.
The Pontian community in Paphos has been labelled by some as a den of thieves and troublemakers, but Panayiotou insisted there had been nothing improper about Politides' deportation.
"There were complaints that Mr Politides had been involved in a theft in Paphos. After investigating, police suggested there be no prosecution, but asked the Attorney-general for his deportation. The Attorney-general gave his approval. The file was forwarded to the Immigration Department, which issued a deportation order," the Interior Ministry official said.
But despite the claim that Markides had rubber-stamped the deportation, the Attorney-general's office yesterday called the deportation of the Pontian a blatant injustice.
And despite his insistence that nothing wrong had been done, Panayiotou said the ministry would look into Politides' case again. Nicolaou recommended that the state pay for his return to Cyprus, where his wife and two children still live.
The Paphos police chief, Spyros Koniotis, also defended the force's handling of the case yesterday.
Nicolaou had named the Paphos police chief in her report as being personally responsible for deporting Politides as a way of dealing with the town's perceived Pontian problem.
Koniotis confirmed that he had suggested the man be deported. "I took this initiative because of the problem with the Pontians," he said.
He confirmed that Politides had been held at Paphos police station for almost a month before his September 4 deportation. "Paphos police bear no responsibility for his being deported before his appeal was heard" in the Supreme Court, the police chief said.
He was at pains to emphasise that the theft in which Politides was originally suspected of involvement was serious, containing elements of "abuse of trust by an employee" and "burglary".
The case concerned the theft of a bottle of wine and two small bottles of Coca-Cola from a shop.
Another suspect in the same case was deported to Greece, he said.
Panayiotou said members of the Pontian community in Paphos had agreed to a state plan to record them all. He said the aim of this census would be to help community members find jobs and homes.
Police are currently investigating death threats against Paphos Pontians from a hitherto unheard of organisation calling itself Golden Dawn.
Diko deputy Nicos Pittokopitis, who has in the past been outspoken in his criticism of the Pontian community, yesterday condemned Golden Dawn's threats against them. And the Bishop of Paphos, Chrysostomos, expressed the Church's support for Pontians, calling them fellow Christian "brothers".
 Cypriot on trial in London murder caseTHE TRIAL began in London yesterday of a Greek Cypriot and his alleged accomplice, charged with the murder of black musician Michael Mensen in 1997.
The court heard that Mensen, 30, son of a Ghanian diplomat, was set on fire in a north London street because he looked like a man who had once harassed the girlfriend of one of the alleged killers.
Prosecutor Nigel Sweeney told the court that student Mario Pereira and Greek Cypriot Charalambous Constantinou, both 26, together with Turkish Cypriot Ozguy Cevat, 22, attacked Menson near telephone boxes in the city's Edmonton area.
Pereira and Constantinou deny murder and perverting the course of justice. Cevat, who fled to the occupied areas of Cyprus, was arrested and is standing trial there for the killing.
The jury was told that police originally believed Menson had tried to commit suicide and wasted hours in securing the scene of the crime where Menson had staggered while still alight before being helped by two motorists.
He later told his brothers from his hospital bed before he died that he had been attacked. He had burns to more than 30 per cent of his body.
It was two years before police were able to track down the alleged culprits after planting a listening device in their flat.
Police say officers heard them admit to taking part in the attack, how they could gag witnesses, and how they planned to destroy evidence.
 Agreeing to talks is not enoughJean Christou
THE TURKISH side's agreement to attend indirect talks on Cyprus will not be enough to lift Greece's embargo on Turkey's EU candidacy, Athens said yesterday.
Greek officials told the Reuters news agency that only substantial progress on the Cyprus issue would qualify as a "concrete gesture" on the basis of which Greece could lift its objections at the EU Helsinki summit on December 6.
"It's too early to start applauding," one senior Greek official said, referring to Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash's agreement to attend indirect talks on Cyprus in New York on December 3, just three days before the European summit.
Athens believes there will be little time for real progress in that time and reports out of Ankara already suggest that Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit is not ready to make any concessions on Cyprus.
Local reports quoted Ecevit as saying that, despite improved relations with Greece, Ankara was not ready to give ground on Cyprus.
Denktash only agreed to go to New York after the UN changed the text of a statement on the talks twice in 24 hours, during which he said he would go, then he wouldn't, and finally agreed on Monday morning.
He objected to UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan's reference to "President" Clerides and "Mr" Denktash, and also to the fact that Annan spoke of "substantive" talks.
The wording of the third and final statement just said that "the parties have agreed to start proximity talks in New York on December 3 to prepare the ground for meaningful negotiations leading to a comprehensive settlement."
Turkish Cypriot papers yesterday quoted Denktash as saying he hoped an agreement for a confederation would be reached at the end of the proximity talks.
He told the Cyprus Mail last week he regarded the talks as a means to establish his status before any direct negotiations could start.
"Are we supposed to be grateful to Mr Denktash for participating in the talks? This is the minimum he can do," Greek government spokesman Demetris Reppas said in Athens yesterday. "What matters is the progress that will be made."
Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis is due to meet Ecevit on the sidelines of the OSCE summit in Istanbul this week.
The US and other members of the international community are touting Sunday's agreement as a major breakthrough in the Cyprus issue, although no one is saying what will be on the agenda in New York. President Clerides has said he has been assured the talks will be substantive.
Britain's envoy Sir David Hannay said on Monday it was not a question of asking Turkey to make concessions, but of finding a settlement that protects the interests of all concerned.
"I think Turkey is very conscious of the need to look at the whole of its relations with the West, with the United States, with the European Union, and in that relationship obviously the unsolved problem of Cyprus is still a bit of a poisoned thorn," Hannay told the BBC.
"My own view is that perseverance and persistent diplomacy will eventually bear fruit, but you have to be very patient and you have to not take 'No' for an answer and you have to no yield to the cynical thoughts, the shrug of the shoulders, 'just another attempt' 'What's the point?' The point is to avoid something becoming a serious threat to international peace and security which some time ago actually led to open fighting."
Meanwhile Russia's Chargť d'affaires in Nicosia, Sergei Rokov, said Moscow would be raising the issue of the UN talks text with the Security Council.
Rokov was responding to questions on the absence of any reference to UN resolutions in the brief text issued on Sunday.
 Police officer says colleague's testimony is liesBy Martin Hellicar
A LIMASSOL police officer yesterday told the Assizes court that a colleague had given false testimony against a member of the force charged with the murder of Hambis Aeroporos.
Nicos Meitanis, appearing as a defence witness, described how a prosecution witness, officer Frangescos Frangescou, had admitted to him that he had lied in a statement he gave about the movements of Christos Symianos after the December 16 gangland hit.
Officer Symianos, 35, and special constable Savvas Ioannou, alias Kinezos, 33, deny charges of gunning down 36-year-old Aeroporos outside Limassol.
Frangescou has testified before the Criminal court, convening in Nicosia, that Symianos and another man -- whom he did not recognise -- had appeared on his doorstep shortly after the killing and asked to be driven to the Castle hotel.
But Meitanis yesterday told the court that Frangescou had broken down and confessed to him that the original statement he gave police -- on which his court-room testimony was based -- was fabricated.
Meitanis recounted how he and colleague Pericles Christodoulou visited Frangescou at his home in Limassol less than a week after the killing. Frangescou had taken sick leave at the time, Meitanis said.
"When he saw me he started crying. I asked him what was wrong, and his exact words were: 'Haven't you heard anything yet, I went and gave a statement concerning the Aeroporos murder and they forced me to write lies,'" the witness said.
"I said to him: 'An educated person like you and you wrote lies in such a serious case?'" the officer told the court.
"He replied: 'They promised me promotion and I was persuaded'."
The officer said Christodoulou and Frangescou's wife also witnessed the confession.
Christodoulou, who took the stand as a defence witness after Meitanis, backed up his colleague's account of Frangescou's tearful admission.
When he took the witness stand last week, Symianos claimed Frangescou's testimony against him was false.
Waiter Prokopis Prokopiou, 35, has admitted to being one of the three hooded hit-men who killed Hambis Aeroporos. When making his dramatic court-room confession earlier this year, Prokopiou said Symianos and Kinezos were innocent. But the court has decided there is a case for Symianos and Kinezos to answer.
Charges against the other two accused in the high-profile murder trial were dropped last week after the Supreme Court ruled key evidence against them was inadmissible.
Cabaret owner Sotiris Athinis, 43, and his 51-year-old sister Zoe Alexandrou, a hospital cleaner, had denied charges of conspiring to murder Hambis.
Hambis Aeroporos was gunned down in broad daylight as he drove into Limassol from the town's new hospital in the Ypsonas area. His murder is believed to be part of a gangland turf war for control of the cabaret circuit -- thought to be a front for prostitution and gambling rackets.
The murder trial was moved to Nicosia for fear of gangland reprisals against the suspects. Armed police are out in force for every hearing. The trial continues.
 Cyprus and Russia sign anti-crime dealCYPRUS and Russia have signed a law enforcement agreement aimed at upgrading, preventing and combating crime.
The agreement was signed by Justice Minister Nicos Koshis and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Borisovitch Rushailo.
Speaking after the ceremony, Koshis, who is on a three-day visit to Moscow, said Cyprus and Russian attached great importance to developing international cooperation for the control of crime, protecting public order and securing human rights and freedoms.
"The agreement upgrades and strengthens even further the two countries' cooperation in preventing, combating and investigating various crimes by exchanging information, experts, and training staff," Koshis said.
Rushailo said his discussions with Koshis had focused on ways to combat organised crime and economic crime, and money laundering.
The talks also touched on fighting terrorism and drug trafficking, he said.
 Miss Universe brought forward by a weekTHE MISS Universe pageant is to be brought forward a week, from May 20 to May 13, it was announced yesterday.
A statement from the organisers said the American channel CBS, which is broadcasting the event live to millions of people, had changed the date to secure even higher viewing figures.
In the statement, Nicos Mastorakis said the organisers were very happy with the progress being made so far.
The pageant is being organised by the Donald Trump Corporation and CBS. It will be broadcast live from Nicosia's Eleftheria Stadium at 4am Cyprus time on May 13, to coincide with US prime time viewing.
Cyprus is pushing the 'island of love' angle with Cyprus as the birthplace of Aphrodite. The winner of the contest will be given a golden apple.
Contestants and their entourages will be in Cyprus for around three weeks and dozens of events are planned across the island to capitalise on the pageant for the benefit of tourism.
 Watch out for a river of stellar stonesBy Anthony O. Miller
THIS year's "Leonid" meteor shower promises to be "much better" than last year's, Ioannis Fakkas, honorary president of the Cyprus Astronomical Association, assured yesterday. But then, it would have to.
The show should begin over northern Cyprus about 11pm tonight, when Earth enters the space-stone-strewn orbit of the Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, and continue until about 3am on Wednesday, Fakkas said.
But he suggested the best viewing time would be after midnight, since "the moon will have set" by then, leaving a darker sky in which to see the meteors flash as they burn up in Earth's atmosphere.
Besides, Fakkas added, at 11pm the constellation Leo, namesake of the Leonid meteor shower -- because the burning space stones seem to be "fired" at earth from where Leo is in the night sky -- will still be below the Pendadactylos Mountain Range, out of view in the free areas.
So midnight is the soonest we can seriously start staring skyward, Fakkas said. But "there will be no best place" to view the spectacle, he added.
However, the countryside and the mountains, where city light interference is minimal, will afford the best view. As well, "you have to look in a northeast direction" to get the fullest effect of the meteor shower, Fakkas added.
This year's extravaganza promises to be more spectacular than last year's (which occurred on the same date), Fakkas said, because "the river of stones behind the comet is going to richer" this year than last. "There will be more rocks in the stream."
But all is not awe and enjoyment, said Fakkas, noting that, while the meteors may well be aesthetically pleasing and astronomically interesting, "they are dangerous" to orbiting space satellites.
"These things are delicate, so if a space stone hits one, it can damage it," Fakkas said. "The people in charge of these things are worried about them," as Earth approaches the comet's stone-strewn orbit, he said.
If a single, pea-sized space rock, racing many times faster than a rifle bullet at 71 kilometres per second slams into an orbiting satellite, it could destroy the spacecraft, knocking out telecommunications or navigation systems back on earth.
In fact, a collision is not necessary for a catastrophe. The magnetic fields generated by the speeding space stones can skew a satellite's sensitive electronic gear, rendering it useless.
In either event, Internet browsers, television couch-potatoes and motorists chatting (illegally) on mobile phones while driving could all instantly become disconnected.
Fakkas said astronomers had it in mind to turn selected spacecraft away from the direction of possible impacts from the speeding meteors.
Last year, for instance, the US National Aeronautical and Space Administration (Nasa) turned the billion-dollar Hubble Space Telescope away from what was considered the most dangerous direction of possible impact.
In order to dip his own telescope into the comet's "river of stones," Fakkas last year climbed to a Paralimni rooftop for maximum viewing.
But last year, cloud cover kept many Cypriots from seeing anything faintly resembling any meteor shower. As well, what was billed to be 4,000 to 5,000 meteors visible per hour, turned out to peak at around 1,000 per hour -- and not over Cyprus.
While Earth intersects with the rock-strewn orbit of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle every year, the actual comet approaches earth "only once every 33.2 years," Fakkas said.
With that and the memory of last year's less-than-stellar show in mind, Fakkas said this year, "we shall stay on the roof in Nicosia, and try to see it from there."
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999