THE trial of ten police officers accused of brutally beating two students became bogged down in legal procedure yesterday after the defence questioned whether Attorney General Petros Clerides could be a key witness and try the case as well.
Clerides appeared before the Criminal Court yesterday to give key evidence in the case, which shocked public opinion when the matter first came to light.
Moreover, he was to submit what could prove to be damning evidence – an amateur video capturing the police violence against the two defenceless students.
Lawyers for the ten police officers on trial intervened to object to Clerides taking the stand suggesting there was a conflict of interest as he was also the prosecutor.
It was argued that Clerides could not give evidence and then be in a position to evaluate it as an independent prosecutor. The prosecution requested time from the court to study the objection.
The video of the beating was given to Clerides personally, which is why he had to present it in court.
The state prosecution has until Monday to respond before the court decides on the matter.
Ten police officers captured on amateur video face trial on a total of 97 charges related to the beating of two students in December 2005.
All the accused have pleaded not guilty.
The officers face serious charges of inflicting torture, causing grievous bodily harm and subjecting their victims to humiliating and harsh treatment.
It is a legal first for so many police officers – including one female – to be put on trial for brutality offences.
Their rank ranges from constable to sergeant, aged between 21 and 52 and deployed in the drug squad, mobile reaction unit MMAD and traffic department.
Some of the charges they face carry a maximum 14-year jail term for the beating of the two 27-year-old students Marcos Papageorgiou and Yiannos Nicolaou.
The ten were suspended from duty, six months after the original incident was exposed.
Clerides ruled the plainclothes officers caught on film be prosecuted for offences pertaining to torture and inflicting grievous bodily harm.
It wasn’t until the anonymous video was made public in March last year that the case started to gather speed.
A public outcry prompted nine criminal investigators to take charge of the case.
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International slammed the images of police brutality as a “clear violation of the UN convention against torture”.
The 45-minute video clearly shows a number of police officers stamping their feet on two male suspects while they are sprawled on the ground with their hands bound and showing no signs of resistance, while others look on.
The police officers involved had been deployed as part of a dragnet to capture a sex predator in the capital.
|||Legal row bogs down police trial