Saturday 23 November 2019

Former Cypriot defence minister found guilty for 2011 munitions blast

Michele Kambas

A Cypriot court found a former defence minister guilty of manslaughter and negligence for the deaths of 13 people in a massive munitions blast in 2011 which knocked out the island's largest power station and had a crippling effect on the economy.

Costas Papacostas, who served in the island's former communist government, was found to have direct responsibility over the safe-keeping of a cargo of confiscated Iranian munitions, which exploded in the early hours of July 11, 2011.

Compressed gunpowder and shell casings were stored for months in scorching heat and warnings from subordinates about growing risks were ignored, the court said.

"We have no doubt the defendant was aware of the risks... but closed his eyes to the danger," presiding Criminal Court Judge Tefkros Economou said in his verdict at a hearing attended by dozens of relatives clutching photos of the victims.

Marcos Kyprianou, a former foreign minister and EU commissioner also on trial, was cleared of negligence charges along with the deputy head of the island's army, the national guard.

Three senior officials in the island's fire service were also convicted of negligence. The court will pass down sentencing on July 24. (Reporting by Michele Kambas; Editing by Gareth Jones)


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