Trial Observation Mission in Cyprus : Four International NGOs Urge Cypriot Authorities to Drop Charges against Human Rights Defender Doros Polykarpou

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), The Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants (PICUM), The European Network Against Racism (ENAR), and Migreurop are deeply concerned with the Cypriot authorities’ prosecution of Mr. Doros Polykarpou, the Executive Director of Action for Support, Equality, Antiracism (KISA).

For this reason, we have sent a delegation to observe the second hearing of the trial against Doros Polykarpou that took place today, 22 July 2011, in Larnaca, Cyprus. The delegation was there to ensure that Mr Polykarpou was given a free and fair trial. Although the trial was postponed to 12 September 2011 due to lack of detailed information about the criminal charges, the delegation welcomes the decision of the judge in requesting such information.

On 5 November 2010, participants in the racist march of the Greek Resistance Movement in Larnaca deliberately and violently attacked, in the presence of a police force, the 13th Rainbow Festival—the largest antiracist multicultural festival in Cyprus—organized every year by KISA. The slogans of the racist march were aimed against Turks, Jews and Muslims, against people under international protection and undocumented migrants, as well as against KISA activists under the slogan “axe and fire against KISA’s dogs”.

Six months after the tragic events, which left several festival goers injured, law enforcement authorities sought to criminalize KISA’s Executive Director, who was one of the main victims of the attack against the Festival, by bringing against him criminal charges for “rioting and participating in an illegal assembly”, punishable by 3 years in prison. What is even more alarming is that the main witness in this case is the leader of the extreme right wing in Cyprus, who organized the racist march.

Our organisations strongly condemn the prosecution of Mr. Polykarpou that we believe is aimed at damaging the reputation and hindering KISA’s efforts, an organization that has been fighting xenophobia and racism in Cyprus for the last 13 years. We see no other motive behind the trial than to silence a human rights activist who has worked courageously to defend the cause of people in need of support and protection.

Mr. Polykarpou’s case is the most recent in a series of cases against him personally and against KISA and other human rights and migrant rights organizations. KISA was faced with charges in 5 other different cases since its establishment in 1998.

Our organisations urge the Cypriot authorities to :

• Drop all the charges against Mr. Polykarpou as there is no evidence against him ;

• Drop the criminal charges against the seven other Festival goers ;

• Allow KISA as well as other human rights and migrant rights organisations to work freely and securely ;

• Put an end to all acts of persecution against human rights defenders in Cyprus, and ensure that they are free to carry out their human rights activities without any hindrance or intimidation ;

• Strengthen the role of law enforcements in dealing with the growing racist violence in Cyprus.

We believe the criminalization of human rights and migrants rights defenders is a european problem and Mr Polykarpou’s case is only the clearest example. Therefore, we are determined to raise awareness at national and European level to build the widest coalition in support of KISA.

For interviews or further comment, please contact :

Ms Rim Hajji – EMHRN Deputy Coordinator / Migration and Asylum, EMHRN.ma@euromedrights.net

Mr Nicola Flamigni – PICUM Communications Officer, nicola.flamigni@picum.org

Mr Olivier Clochard – President of Migreurop, Olivier.clochard@yahoo.fr

Mr Momodou Jallow – ENAR Board Member, Jallow.Momodou@mah.se