Posted 2011/7/4

Cyprus: Charges against human rights defender Doros Polykarpou

A trial against human rights defender Doros Polykarpou opened in Larnaca on 20 June 2011. Doros Polykarpou was charged with 'rioting and participating in an illegal assembly' in relation to a festival organised in November 2010 in Larnaca. Doros Polykarpou is the executive director of Action for Support, Equality and Antiracism (KISA), an NGO working against xenophobia and racism in Cyprus.

Further Information

On 20 June 2011, the first hearing of the trial against Doros Polykarpou took place in Larnaca. At the hearing, the defence lawyer requested access to the prosecution's witness statements and that they be granted adequate time to study the documents. The next hearing was scheduled for 22 July 2011.

Doros Polykarpou was served on 30 May 2011 with a court summons for 'rioting and participating in an illegal assembly', charges punishable with imprisonment for up to three years. The charges referred to events which occurred on 5 November 2010 when KIOS organised the 13th Rainbow Festival in Larnaca, a large annual anti-racism multicultural festival.

KIOS had secured all relevant authorisations for the Festival, which took place in the area specifically indicated by the authorities. Speakers at the Festival included the Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Cyprus, the Head of the Authority Against Discrimination and Racism, representatives of the Ombudsman’s Office and the Mayor of Larnaca.

The Festival was attacked by individuals who had gathered for a march organised by the Greek Resistance Movement. Some of the individuals reportedly launched racist insults against Turks, Jews, Muslims, refugees and undocumented migrants.

Insults were also directed at KISA under the slogan “axe and fire against KISA’s dogs”. Police reportedly failed to keep the march at a safe distance from the Festival, which was eventually attacked. This resulted in the stabbing and attempted murder of a Turkish Cypriot musician and the infliction of serious bodily harm, due to a beating and assault, on another Turkish Cypriot musician and a number of migrants who were in attendance at the Festival.

It is reported that the police failed to arrest the attackers and instead arrested five refugees and two Cypriots who were attending the Festival. Only after a public campaign and information gathered by KISA were five of those leading the attack against the Festival charged.

Front Line believes that the charges against Doros Polykarpou are directly related to his peaceful anti-racism work and assistance to migrants and refugees. Since its inception, KISA and Doros Polykarpou faced intimidation and harassment, including several instances of arrest and charges, in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010. In February 2011, the Alien and Immigration Police requested the Disciplinary Law Council to open proceedings against a lawyer member of KISA's Steering Committee in relation to a complaint the lawyer had submitted against the police to the Independent Authority for Investigating Allegations and Complaints against Members of the Police.

Action Update Needed. Before taking further action on this case please contact info@frontlinedefenders.org for further information