Five men appeared before Paphos Criminal Court on Tuesday where they pleaded not guilty to assisting third country nationals to enter the Republic. The court set the trial to start on June 1 and will announce its decision on whether the five should remain in police custody until then on Thursday.
The five, aged 43, 53, 38, 49 and 25 were arrested in the wake of the arrival of a boat with 131 irregular migrants at Polis Chrysochous on November 4.
The Cyprus News Agency said the five face charges of assisting illegal entry and residence of a third country national to the Republic, helping illegal migrants to enter the Republic, smuggling migrants by sea and operating an overloaded boat.
Counsel for the prosecution Irene Savva has asked the court the five remain in custody because they are a flight risk.
She said that just as they had come by boat to Cyprus from the Turkish coast, they could board another boat and flee.
Recounting the facts of the case, she said that the 43 and 53 year old were spotted on a speedboat that was pursued at Ayios Georgios Peyia fishing haven. They said they had been fishing for tuna even though this is not the tuna fishing season, she added.
Police then arrested the 38 year old owner of the speedboat, a Limassol resident who told the court that he had given the boat to one of the two men arrested as people smugglers to sell it. He told the court today that he lives in Limassol, pays social insurance to the Republic and does not know the other four defendants.
The other two were arrestedat the refugee reception centre after police secured evidence against them.
Lawyers for two of the five defendants asked that their clients be released on bail as their families are in Cyprus and they have no reason to flee.
There were 131 people on the boat — 118 men, five women and eight minors.
They told police they had paid $2000 each for passage to Cyprus.