Criminal case against Tsalikidis suspended
THE Attorney-general’s office has decided to suspend criminal proceedings against former National Guard chief Petros Tsalikidis in connection to last July’s deadly blast at a naval base.
Tsalikidis is one of eight accused facing charges of causing death by want of precaution, and homicide by gross negligence. If convicted, the maximum sentence would be life imprisonment.
The July 11 explosion at Evangelos Florakis naval base in Mari killed 13 people - seven sailors and six fire fighters.
Tsalikidis, a Greek national currently residing in Greece, had twice failed to show up at Larnaca district court to hear the charges against him and to be referred to a criminal court along with the other accused.
Having twice been postponed due to Tsalikidis’ absence, the new hearing at the Larnaca court has been set for tomorrow. It’s expected that, there, the Attorney-general will file to halt the prosecution against Tsalikidis.
Following Tsalikidis’ initial no-show in early April, a court notice was posted outside his home in Greece “as he was absent due to illness,” the Attorney-general told newsmen at the time.
The Attorney-general issued a local arrest warrant, later converted to a European arrest warrant that was conveyed to Greek authorities.
Tsalikidis meanwhile informed Cypriot authorities in writing that he preferred to stand trial in his home country.
He recently appeared with his lawyer before judicial authorities in Thessaloniki, which decided against executing the warrant.
It’s understood, however, that the retired general is to be prosecuted in Greece.
Judicial authorities of EU member states are obliged to execute a European arrest warrant and can only refuse its execution in the case of a few, explicitly stated reasons. In the case of Greece, the exception includes cases where a person is already facing prosecution for the same offences.
As such, it appears the Attorney-general had no choice but to drop the charges against Tsalikidis, thus allowing the jammed judicial process here to go ahead for the other accused.
Other than Tsalikidis, the accused are: former Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou; former National Guard deputy chief Savvas Argyrou; former Defence Minister Costas Papacostas; Colonel Georgios Georgiades, former commander of the ordnance corps; fire service chief Andreas Nicolaou; deputy fire chief Charalambos Charalambous; and Andreas Loizides, the commander of the disaster response squad EMAK.
Tsalikidis, who resigned his post as National Guard chief hours after the Mari blast, later told a commission of inquiry that he denied any responsibility for the incident.
He had been appointed chief on May 1, 2009, over a month after the munitions, stored in 98 containers seized from a ship sailing from Iran to Syria, were stacked together at the naval base. The munitions were left exposed to the elements for over two years.
Testifying at the inquiry, Tsalikidis said the National Guard had never assumed responsibility for the condition of the cargo. “The National Guard did not even have access to the contents,” he had said.
(Source: Cyprus Mail)
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