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    Al Jazeera’s film and Cypriot justice

    However, I am disturbed by this decision because I know that in all democratic countries text messages on computers or mobile phones or video recordings can, provided they are authentic, be used to prove wrongdoing.

    By George Koumoulli



    A few days ago, the Supreme Court in a decision rejected the appeal filed by the Legal Service whose purpose was to review last year’s decision of a Supreme Court judge who annulled the court order investigating the data of Giovanni and Antoniou. In other words, the witness material taken from their computers and mobile phones cannot be used as testimony against them and the same, logically, will apply to their co-defendants, Syllouris and Pittatzis, whose long-running trial begins next Wednesday.



    It will be extremely interesting to see if reference will be made to the programme aired on Al Jazeera television entitled “The Cyprus Papers Undercover” in which it is claimed that the highest political echelons of the country were willing to help and support convicted criminals to obtain Cypriot citizenship, providing them with access to the internal markets of the European Union and visa-free travel.



    As a Cypriot citizen, I am stunned by this decision. I am not convinced whether this development is the fault of the Court of First Instance or the Legal Service, or of the lack of coordination between these two institutions, or that the Supreme Court, in interpreting the constitutional law, could not have done otherwise. I am disturbed by this decision, however, because I know that in all democratic countries text messages on computers or mobile phones or video recording can, provided they are authentic, be used to prove wrongdoing or to support a defence position in a wide variety of court cases, ranging from family law issues such as divorce and child custody to personal injury actions, to criminal trials.



    Simple as that! Especially in criminal cases, messages on the mobile or computer are used to indicate a person’s motive, intent to commit an alleged crime or their state of mind in advance. On the basis of these messages, the prosecution can prove that the defendant intended to commit a crime or, conversely, the defence can prove that the crime was unintentional. And by word the true:




    Two years ago we saw on television the horrific death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, who the police in Minneapolis, USA, arrested for buying cigarettes with a counterfeit note. One police officer, Chauvin, had knelt on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on the street shouting heartbreakingly “I can’t breathe.” This scene was filmed by a passerby and based on this video Chauvin was sentenced to 22 years in prison.



    The American courts acted with common sense. They did not put forward the excuse that we often hear in Cyprus that the video recording was done without the consent or knowledge of all involved or that such a projection violates Chauvin’s personal data! We have, unwittingly, become the countrymen – not to say the suckers – of the world on this issue. If there were a similar incident in Cyprus, who knows, the police officer would be acquitted due to “lack of sufficient testimony”.



    But there is still a glaring example that shocks the nationwide at the moment – the exploitation of the 12-year-old girl by a pedophile. The case would not have been discovered if the child’s aunt had not read from his cell phone the obscene messages he received from clients. Now officials of the Directorate of Criminal Investigations of Greece, are retrieving data from the mobile phones and computers of the pedophile and the 12-year-old girl, looking for identification of the many “interested parties” who tried to contact the underage girl.




    It is also worth recalling that the International Court of Justice in The Hague accepts the videos (provided they are authentic) without any bureaucratic hindrance as evidence in a trial on a regular basis. For example, in the high-profile trial of Slobodan Milosevic, the Prosecutor’s Office presented more than 600 videos.




    I am very much afraid that the beleaguered citizens of the Republic of Cyprus will not only not agree with the Supreme Court’s decision but will resent this development, which they may interpret as an attempt to thwart the administration of justice. Various theories that are not at all flattering for the Cypriot state may be embraced. They will say a lot: they will say that the expected infamous trial is nothing more than a trial for the spectacle.



    That it’s just show trial. That the establishment protects its own “children.” That Cypriot justice is ordered. That it is vile self-righteousness and a very transparent alibi on the part of the establishment to claim that everyone’s personal data should be protected without exception. So when such thoughts are spinning in their minds, how can they not mock or disregard the decisions of the courts?




    But what will our partners, who regard Cyprus as the EU’s black sheep, say, especially if the accused are acquitted? Some will say that in our country the acquittal of the accused is the final outcome of such a trial (which is an insinuation!) while others will remind us of Voltaire’s dictum “He who forgives the crime, becomes his accomplice” (Et qui pardonne au crime, en deviant complice).



    *Opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of CypriumNews.

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