6 iraniens, déboutés du droit d’asile, barricadés sur le toit d’une tour

NICOSIA — Six Iranians, protesting the rejection of their applications for asylum in Cyprus, remained barricaded on top of a water tower at the island’s sole prison for a fourth straight day Wednesday.

The six mounted the five meter (16 foot) high tower at Nicosia prison Saturday, accusing the government of breaking a previous promise to clarify their status.

Some of them have been held in police cells at the prison for up-to-four years as the deportation papers issued against them cannot be implemented because they have no identity papers to prove their country of origin.

In an embarrassing security lapse for the authorities, it was the second time in a month that the six had climbed the tower to highlight their plight.

Police chief Iacovos Papacostas ordered a disciplinary probe against a sergeant and three special constables on charges of dereliction of duty.

Another man identified as an Afghan national, who had joined the six, was taken back to his cell after receiving treatment for a "mild cold", doctors said.

"Negotiations with the detainees aiming to convince them to climb down from the water tank did not have a positive outcome," a police spokesman said.

"Police will continue their efforts to persuade the detainees to end their protest."

But the government said there would be no negotiations unless the protesters came down from the tower.

Justice minister Sophocles Sophocleous told state radio he was sympathetic to the Iranians’ plight, but added that the government could not to give in to "blackmail" lest it "open the floodgates" to similar acts of desperation.

Police said 12 foreign detainees at a police station in the island’s second city of Limassol mounted a short-lived uprising in solidarity with the water tower protesters.

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said there were approximately-10,400 asylum applications pending in Cyprus as of May 2007, one of the highest per capita totals in the European Union.