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Former Cypriot minister given jail term over munitions blast

05 August 2013

A former Cypriot defence minister was given a five-year jail term on August 2 over a munitions blast at a military base in southern Cyprus in July 2011 which killed 13 people and crippled the island's electricity grid. Costas Papacostas, who served in the island's former communist government, was found guilty of manslaughter and causing death through negligence. 

The Vassilikos power station was extensively damaged in the blast
The Vassilikos power station was extensively damaged in the blast

The 74-year-old has been in hospital with a heart condition since he was found guilty on July 9 and was not present in court.

Three senior officers in the island's fire and emergency services were also jailed for two years for causing death through negligence.

The court ruled that the defendants had been responsible for a sequence of failures to safeguard a cargo of confiscated Iranian munitions that exploded on July 11, 2011.

Papacostas resigned in the wake of the blast. A second minister on trial, former foreign minister Marcos Kyprianou, was cleared.

The munitions, which included compressed gunpowder and shell casings, were kept for months in scorching heat at the island's only naval base, next to Vassilikos, its main power station, which was extensively damaged in the blast.

Reuters said the court heard testimony that senior officials had played down or been unresponsive to warnings from lower-ranking officers that the cargo was unstable.

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