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Six to stand trial in Cyprus for Israeli plot

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Six people, including a suspected Azeri hitman, will stand trial in Cyprus on 6 December for allegedly plotting to attack Israeli businesspeople on the island.

The Azeri national – thought to be behind the operation – and five others face charges of conspiracy to murder, participation in a criminal organisation, terrorism, illegal possession of firearms and circulating fake documents.

According to local media, although police have not identified the suspects, four are from Pakistan and a Cypriot of Lebanese origin.

On Friday, a Nicosia district court decided to refer the case to trial before the criminal court next month, which is expected to be held behind closed doors for security reasons.

The six will remain in police custody until their trial.

The Azeri, 38, was arrested on 27 September while crossing from the Turkish occupied north through a Nicosia checkpoint, where police officers intercepted him after being tipped off.

A gun with a silencer and some bullets were found in his possession.

The other arrests came after police officers accessed the main suspect’s telecommunications data following the Azeri’s capture.

Israel alleges the Azeri is a would-be assassin recruited by its arch-foe Iran to attack prominent Israelis on the island.

Israel claims there was a wider plot to carry out terrorist attacks against several prominent Israelis in Cyprus.

However, Iran has refuted any involvement in the case.

Last week, Cyprus police chief Stelios Papatheodorou said there was evidence before the court to prove there was a plot and a conspiracy to commit crimes in “this serious case”.

“There is testimony that leads the police to file a criminal prosecution against the suspects,” he told reporters.

According to daily Politis, the Azeri-Russian assassin was allegedly paid $40,000 to carry out the attack.

A 27-year-old Pakistani food delivery driver was arrested in Paphos last month.

Communications between the Pakistani and Azeri men were found on the latter’s phone.

A uniform from a major food company was found in the Azeri assassin’s possession, likely supplied by the Pakistani man to be used as a disguise.

The Pakistani man is also suspected of having links to a Syria-based Shi’ite militia known as Liwa Zainebiyoun.

Police believe the suspect assassin intended to hit his target and then escape to the north.