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Justice Minister: ‘I have taken my decisions and will inform President’

Beleaguered Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou, who has faced repeated calls to resign over how police handled the case of women reported as missing and later found murdered, said on Wednesday that he has taken his decisions and will be informing President Nicos Anastasiades when they meet tomorrow.

The president has been abroad in China as a stunned public opinion follows the gruesome discovery of the bodies of four murder victims and a search for another three.

A 35 year old army officer is in police custody and has reportedly confessed to killing five women and children from 2016 to 2018. At least six were reported missing and police have come under fire for failing to investigate properly when their disappearance was first reported. Police counter that the law prohibits them to request the lifting of  privacy of telecommunications. An administrative inquiry is nevertheless underway, though critics say this is too little too late.

In a written statement on Wednesday, Nicolaou said that he has taken his personal decisions and had been awaiting the president’s return to inform first.

The minister said he has been following statements calling on him to shoulder political responsibility and resign because of the way police handled the case of missing persons. He said that he has throughout his political life “been strict as regards the principles which determine shouldering political responsibility, even if there is no personal responsibility.”

Voicing shock at the crimes, he said that he had not — prior to the revelation of the murders — been briefed either about the police’s handling of the disappeared women.

“During tomorrow’s meeting with the president I will inform him of my decisions and explain what led me to take them, even though as minister or as a ministry we do not have any authority nor should we as regards the handling of investigations or inquiries carried out in the probing of complaints,” he said.

These he said are the exclusive responsibility of the investigating authorities which are the police, which whenever it feels useful and necessary, asks the attorney general for instructions. The executive does not have jurisdiction and should not intervene in these cases,” the minister said.

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