Police used ‘excessive force’ at anti-corruption demo

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A public probe into whether excessive force was used at an anti-corruption protest last year has concluded that two police officers should face criminal prosecution, while several more must be disciplined.

The Attorney General commissioned the inquiry by the independent police complaints authority after police used a water cannon and pepper spray in clashes with protestors.

The demonstration was held on 13 February 2021, with protestors marching against corruption in government amid the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions in place at the time.

In comments to the Cyprus News Agency, the Authority’s head, Andreas Paschalides, confirmed that Attorney General George Savvides has accepted the committee’s recommendations.

The independent Authority was also requested to intervene by the Chief of Police, Stelios Papatheodorou.

Paschalides said the criminal charges concern two people, who will be officially charged, and the case sent to the Attorney General to prosecute.

He noted that the Authority has also decided on disciplinary action independent of the criminal procedure.

He said it involved a single-digit number of police officers, but those concerned had not been notified.

“The recommendation of the Authority to the Chief of Police for disciplinary proceedings cannot be disputed.

“The decision is binding for the chief of police, who is obliged to initiate the process”.

During the demonstration, a woman was seriously injured and in danger of losing sight in one eye.

Anastasia Demetriadou, then 25, underwent an operation with her eyesight partly restored.

She had been hit by the water cannon from a short distance.

In video footage, the woman appeared to be dancing in front of police officers when she was hit in the face with the force of the water cannon, hitting her head on a barrier.

The events sparked criticism against the Anastasiades administration, with the main opposition party AKEL calling on Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis to resign.

The water cannon was used for the first time at the protest in February 2021.

The government had bought it for €350,000 from Israel.

It has appeared on several occasions, including football riots, but has not been used since the anti-corruption demo.