Sunday 16 December 2018

Family pleads for help to solve mystery death of former consul

Michael Brennan Political Correspondent

The family of the former Irish honorary consul in Cyprus has pleaded for help to establish the facts behind his suspicious death.



Stephis Stephanou (64) died in Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus last year after being detained by police on suspicion of antiquities smuggling.

He had served as the Irish honorary consul in Cyprus from 1987 until 2001, when an official embassy was opened there, and helped many stranded Irish tourists during his time there.

His daughter Katerina Liasis said: "We still have grave concerns about the circumstances surrounding our father's death. We are still unsure about what exactly happened to him."

Mr Stephanou was arrested by Turkish Cypriot police in the northern half of the divided island on October 18 last year after pictures of antiquities were found on his mobile phone. The family was later told that he had previously carried out undercover work to track down smuggled antiques on behalf of the Cypriot government and may have been "targeted" as a result.

Mr Stephanou crossed the Green Line -- which divides the city of Nicosia between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides -- on October 18 last year. He was arrested by Turkish Cypriot police leaving the home of a friend, and detained in a prison on the northern side of the city.

Ms Liasis said that when she visited him in jail, he told her that he had been "beaten heavily and interrogated" while in a 2-by-2 metre prison cell in the divided Cypriot capital, Nicosia. She said: "He had a plank of wood to sleep on. He said that he was strong and didn't give in. Inmates told us that he had told them during his interrogation and beating he was singing the Greek national anthem and Byzantine Hymns."

Pain

After her grandmother and uncle went to visit Mr Stephanou in the Turkish Cypriot prison on October 24, they said that he was in a lot of pain and could not walk unaided.

Family reported inmates said that the prison guards failed to act speedily when told he needed urgent attention.

Mr Stephanou fell into a coma and was put on a breathing machine in the Dr Burhan Nalbantoglu State Hospital. He died on November 1. Greek and Turkish Cypriot doctors agreed he had died from cardiac arrest. Greek Cypriot state pathologist Eleni Antoniou said: "He had fractured ribs, both on his left side and right side, which were caused by another person."

The UN peacekeeping force's medical officer had seen the body and said there was no evidence of injuries "other than those consistent with standard resuscitative procedures". The Department of Foreign Affairs was not available for comment.

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