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Court finds Cyprus criminally negligent for 2011 naval base explosion

23 May 2016

On May 20, a court in Cyprus found the government guilty of criminal negligence for its role in an explosion five years ago that killed 13 people and seriously affected the country’s economy. The court in Larnaca said in its ruling the Republic of Cyprus had shown criminal negligence in its handling of a large quantity of explosives that exploded at a naval base where they had been stored.

Vasilikos power station after the blast - Image: IDE Technologies Ltd
Vasilikos power station after the blast - Image: IDE Technologies Ltd

"The Republic of Cyprus has shown criminal disregard for the lives of persons ...(It) grossly violated its obligation under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights to protect the lives of the victims," the court said in its ruling, reported by the Famagusta Gazette.

The explosives were confiscated from a Russian ship, en route from Iran to Syria, for violating United Nations sanctions. Some 500 tonnes of munitions in 98 containers were stacked in the middle of the Evangelos Florakis Naval Base near the town of Zygi.

The explosion killed 13 firemen, policemen and conscripts who were trying to put out a blaze inside a container on the site.

The blast caused widespread devastation and knocked out Cyprus's brand new Vasilikos power plant. The destruction deepened a recession of the economy and forced the government to request a bailout by the Eurogroup and the IMF in mid-2012.

An official investigation found that then-President Demetris Christofias had refused to hand over the explosives to European Union experts because he was about to pay a visit to Syria. A criminal court found former Defence Minister Costas Papacostas guilty of charges related to the explosion and sentenced him to five years in prison.

The families of three of the victims were awarded a total of 1.82 million euros in damages, and there are still 10 more actions before the court.

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