Police remanded four more people Monday afternoon in connection with the attack on media group Dias on Sunday night, after a protest by anti-vaxxers against COVID-19 vaccines and the SafePass turned violent.
A police official told the Financial Mirror that four more people were arrested on Monday afternoon, adding to the five that have already been remanded in custody. The official said arrest warrants were issued after police had evaluated visual and other accounts of the events of the night.
At around 8.30 on Sunday evening, a group broke into the media group’s main building housing the studios of Sigma TV, terrorising staff, destroying equipment and setting cars on fire. The attacks and arson followed a demonstration outside the Presidential Palace were a crowd of a few thousand had chanted slogans against vaccines and demanding ‘freedom’.
Demonstrators were protesting the government’s decision to introduce the use of the Safe Pass, holders of which must either be vaccinated, have recovered from the virus or take a test every 72 hours to be allowed entry to almost all buildings and enterprises.
A group broke away from the demonstration and headed towards Dias, some 3km or 7 minutes away.
According to eye-witness accounts, the attackers broke through the gates, threw a flare into the security booth, which was engulfed in flames with the security guard trapped inside.
Demetris Skouros, the head of Dias’ security, told reporters that he yelled to the attackers, “I am going to die in here, and they said ‘You and [Sigma CEO Chrysanthos] Tsouroulis should die, you are fascists’.”
“They had stones and bricks, all sorts of things, and they were wearing hoods,” Skouros said.
President – police under fire
Meanwhile, the police force came under fierce criticism from the founder and Chairman of Dias Media Group, Costis Hadjicostis, as well as from the opposition, for “taking their time” to respond to calls for help from Sigma TV.
Speaking to CyBC on Monday, Sigma TV’s news chief Yiannis Kareklas said that Sigma journalists had warned the police of threats made towards the station from early on Sunday early afternoon.
“The response was quite tepid. Police just told us not to worry, not to think about it, that nothing’s going to happen. They took no measures to protect the building,” said Kareklas.
On Monday morning, Dias chairman Hadjicostis confronted President Nicos Anastasiades during the latter’s onsite visit to inspect damages.
“This is your last chance to prove you exist,” Hadjicostis said, according to a Phileleftheros report, demanding the president punish those involved.
Anastasiades responded by saying that “whenever the police make a move to restore justice, they face attacks and criticism,” implying, as understood by many, from the Dias Group.
In a tweet later on in the day, the president said he had been in touch with the two policemen injured at the presidential palace demonstration on Sunday, who are doing well.
As it emerged later, some 12 policemen were injured during clashes with protesters that continued after the demonstration was over.
All politicians condemned the attack, with the opposition’s leading MP Irene Charalambidou questioning the absence of the police.
“The attacks on SigmaTV are unacceptable. The state was absent and any attack on journalists is an attack on freedom of the press. Where was the police?” she tweeted.
The incidents will be taken up during a meeting on Tuesday, between the President and the Justice Minister Stephie Drakou and the police.