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COVID19: President releases man jailed for breaking curfew to see girlfriend

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Cyprus’ president has intervened to release a man sentenced to 45 days in prison for breaking Covid-19 curfew laws to see his girlfriend.

There has been public indignation over the harsh sentence received by a 35-year-old Cypriot man who was caught by police breaking coronavirus curfew laws when stopped in March.

He was sentenced by a Famagusta district court on Tuesday to serve 45 days behind bars for ignoring the curfew and social distancing decrees.

But the island’s top law officer, the attorney general Costas Clerides, said the sentence was inappropriate and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades agreed.

“Exercising the powers provided to him by the Constitution, following a recommendation by the Attorney General, the President decided to suspend the sentencing of a citizen who was imprisoned for 45 days for violating restrictions on movement,” a statement by deputy government spokesman Panayiotis Sentonas.

It said the decision considered that from March 27 – two days after the incident – “offences of this nature are punishable by on-the-spot fines”.

The spokesman said, “other factors related to the case were also taken into account”.

The 35-year-old said he had ‘decided to visit his girlfriend’ when police officers stopped and cautioned him for breaking the curfew, a little after 9 pm on March 25.

A daily night-time Cyprus curfew between 9 pm-6 am was imposed on March 24 to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Delivering the stern punishment, the court on Tuesday said that government decrees and regulations had been issued to protect public health.

The Famagusta district court argued the defendant was aware of the lockdown with daily pleas from the government, experts, police, and others on the need to comply, which he chose to defy.

Branding such behaviour as “unacceptable”, the court said that COVID-19 decrees have dramatically changed the lives of those who adhered to the law.

“Yet some believe they are above the law and their fellow citizens, ignore the decrees and continue with their lives as if nothing is happening,” the court said.

“Certainly, behaviour such as the defendant’s is unacceptable, he simply decided at night to go see his girlfriend.”

Since then lawyers and members of the man’s community have come out to criticise the court’s decision as unfair.

According to daily Phileleftheros on Thursday, the man’s mother said her son was actually living with his girlfriend in Paralimni at the time and was going to their shared home after work.

Apparently, the man had no idea that police would report him when he was stopped.