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Cyprus Internet Directory [ ‘I came to tell the truth’ ]

‘I came to tell the truth’

MARTHA Ioannou, 47, yesterday tried to convince Nicosia’s Assize Court that she had changed her plea to guilty in an ongoing drugs trial after she had allegedly been threatened by the brother of her former co-defendant, who is a convicted felon.

Keeping her eyes fixed on the panel of three judges the woman said she had come to court to “tell the truth and nothing but the truth” and that her plea-change and decision to testify for the prosecution was in no way related to promises from the Drug Law Enforcement Unit (DLEU) that she would get off with a lesser sentence.

Although the defence pointed out that Ioannou had told police the threats against her and her family had been made a good 10 months earlier, and not prior to her plea change, the 47-year-old stuck to her story.

As the lengthy hearing unfolded, the defence lawyer deftly picked through Ioannou’s testimony for the prosecution and compared it to the police statement she had given at the time of her arrest. A number of facts were missing from her written statement then, compared to her court testimony. Nevertheless Ioannou claimed her original police statement had only focused on the “essence of the case, not the details”.

Ioannou’s credibility was further called into question when she contradicted statements she’d made in February during a trial-within-a-trial. The defence repeatedly referred back to the statements she had made in court then and asked whether she recalled what she had said. Some statements she appeared to remember, but not others. Also, at times, she almost appeared to be stalling when she claimed not to understand a specific question.

The trial-within-a-trial earlier this year had taken place to determine whether the police statement Ioannou had given in 2008 following her arrest was done so willingly. The court ruled that it had been and it was accepted into evidence. The 47-year-old later changed her plea to guilty and was sentenced.

Ioannou’s testimony yesterday was given as part of an ongoing trial into a drugs bust in April 2008 when she, along with a 40-year-old woman and the latter’s 30-year-old Indian husband, were arrested crossing back from the occupied areas with nearly a kilo of heroin. The younger woman’s 11-year-old daughter was with the trio at the time.

The narcotics, which were divided into two packages, were strapped to Ioannou’s chest and abdomen.

Although all three initially pleaded not guilty, Ioannou changed her plea earlier this year and was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment.

Both current defendants, the younger woman and her Indian husband, remained impassive throughout Ioannou’s testimony, and neither Ioannou, nor the 40-year-old glanced at each other once, highlighting an obvious rift between the former close friends. As Ioannou’s tinny voice filled the courtroom, the 40-year-old defendant kept her eyes fixed ahead. Sometimes the latter appeared lost in thought.

The female defendant’s 46-year-old brother, who had been involved with Ioannou for seven years, was also in court. His 30-year-old sister, whose jaw remained set throughout the proceeding, sat next to him and more than once sighed audibly, indicating her apparent frustration with Ioannou’s testimony.

The defence argued the sole purpose of Ioannou’s decision to testify for the prosecution had been to secure entry into the witness protection programme and to carry out her sentence at a secure residence as opposed to the Central Prisons.

Ioannou repeatedly denied this assertion.

The defence also said senior officers of the DLEU had promised to help her escape a jail sentence if she co-operated. “No I wasn’t influenced. I realised I was in serious trouble and I was trying to protect myself,” she said.

Ioannou also said she had learned her 40-year-old former alleged associate had plans to “dump everything on me” and “had said I was the brains behind everything”.

She also reiterated the younger woman’s brother, Antonis Prokopiou Kitas, who was in jail serving two life sentences for the rape and murder of two women in 1993, had made threats on her life and that of her children.

At times Ioannou appeared to become indignant as she urged the court to believe her side of the story. She said the trio had gone to the occupied areas where they had met a Turkish Cypriot man who had taken the two women to Kyrenia to pick up the drugs while the child stayed behind in occupied Nicosia with her stepfather. She also said the meeting had been arranged at the behest of Kitas and that the pair had talked the night before. The foursome was stopped and arrested after crossing the checkpoint on foot, she said.

The defence said Ioannou’s account was a “fabrication of her own imagination” and that neither of the current defendants was in a position to know how she had taken possession of the drugs. He also said the Kyrenia trip had never happened and that the reason for their visit to the occupied areas that day was to go clothes shopping. He said Ioannou had gone to the toilet alone twice when the four stopped for lunch before complaining of stomach pains and terminating their day trip early. Ioannou denied the defence’s version of events.

The trial continues today.

(Source: Cyprus Mail)
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2008 Please contact Cyprus Mail for the copyright terms of this article.

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