Police misjudged hooligan risk at basketball game

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An administrative probe into policing the Apollon-Anorthosis basketball game that turned violent two weeks ago concludes the force underestimated the risk of trouble.

Justice Minister Anna Koukkides Procopiou ordered the probe after hooligans smashed Nicosia’s Eleftheria indoor stadium and torched the nearby offices of the Cyprus Public Transport Company during the basketball Final Four Cup game on 26 March.

An investigation conducted by Deputy Chief Demetris Demetriou found that officers in command of the operation failed to evaluate reports that fans were preparing to cause trouble at the game.

The Deputy Chief, according to reports, took statements from officers in charge and sources who warned the police of possible trouble, as ‘hard-core’ fans were organising en mass transportation for the game.

Demetriou handed the report to Police Chief Stelios Papatheodorou, who forwarded it to Justice Minister Anna Procopiou.

She will inform President Nikos Christodoulides during talks on ways to clamp down on hooliganism.

Procopiou said authorities would “determine whether there are disciplinary offences against specific individuals arising from the investigation process.

“Then another process will launch, at another level, precisely to assign responsibilities, if and when they exist”.

Procopiou said that the actions of all officers involved would be reviewed, excluding those of the Chief and Deputy Chief, as they are political appointments.

“Should political responsibilities arise, then the chief and deputy chief and I will be at the disposal of the President.

“If the president finds that I have not done my job, he will be sending me home,” said the minister.

Meanwhile, a 21-year-old male was arrested on Tuesday, making it eight people arrested for violence at the basketball game.

With the exemption of one, for whom no evidence was found of his involvement, the rest were set free on bail between €5,000 and €10,000 pending trial.

On 26 March, hooligans went on the rampage, causing thousands of euros in damage to the Eleftheria-Tassos Papadopoulos stadium in Nicosia while torching the bus company’s nearby offices, destroying them entirely.

Five police patrol vehicles were damaged, while riot gear items, including tear gas, were stolen.

According to police, fans began fighting with officers before the Apollon Limassol – Anorthosis Famagusta game when they tried to enter without tickets.

Fighting continued inside the stadium, with police pushing troublemakers outside, where they attacked the bus station opposite the stadium.

Following the trouble, the government introduce tougher measures, including subjecting fans to random alcohol and drug tests on entry to sports venues.

Police also have the power to call off games if deemed extremely high risk under new measures to curb violence.

The game was abandoned, with Apollon and Anorthosis disqualified from the tournament.

It leaves only Keravnos and AEK Larnaca in the tournament, but CBF has yet to announce what will happen with the cup final.

That is whether AEK and Keravnos will face each other in the final instead of the semifinal.