News Local Opposition leader to demand from President lifting of ban on protests

Opposition leader to demand from President lifting of ban on protests

Opposition Akel leader Andros Kyprianou is meeting President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday to demand the lifting of a ban on public gatherings now in effect within efforts to curb the coronavirus spread.

The high-profile meeting comes hours only after anti-corruption campaigners in Cyprus announced a second anti-corruption protest within a week.

The protest is set for Saturday in old Nicosia, exactly where the first one – marred by a violent clampdown by police and a subsequent widespread condemnation – had taken place.

“The ban – in the pretext of the coronavirus – is anti-democratic and should be banned immediately,” left-wing Akel spokesman George Loukaides told state radio on Wednesday.

Several hundred people had protested against corruption and restrictions on movement and businesses imposed by authorities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

With public gatherings banned, police moved to break up the demonstration, kittling demonstrators and deploying water cannon and teargas.

Several people were injured, including a 25-year-old woman who was hit by a volley of water as she held her arms up and danced in the street. She underwent emergency surgery on Monday to save her eyesight.

The violence triggered outrage across the political spectrum and calls for the justice minister, who herself described the scenes as disproportionate, to resign.

Organisers argue that for the past year as Cyprus has been going in and out of lockdown, corruption has sky-rocketed and human rights and liberties have been severely curtailed.

Demonstrations in Cyprus are normally tame, with violence highly unusual.

But social unease has been growing from disclosures of corruption in a lucrative passport-for-investment scheme which offered citizenship to wealthy foreigners, and the COVID-inspired lockdowns which have affected thousands of people and businesses.

The passport scheme, previously defended by the island’s centre-right government, was abruptly pulled after the Al Jazeera network showed politicians allegedly willing to facilitate a passport for a fictitious investor with a criminal record.

 

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