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Unanswered questions over death in TC ‘custody’

Cracked ribs lead to beating accusations

A FORMER honorary consul of Ireland and founding Diko member may now rest in peace, but a slew of unanswered questions remain about his mysterious death in the hands of Turkish Cypriot ‘police’.

Stephis Stephanou, 64, died in a Turkish Cypriot hospital in occupied Nicosia on November 1, after spending two weeks in Turkish Cypriot detention on reported charges of antiquities smuggling.

His funeral was held on Tuesday amid a simmering dispute over allegations of abuse, triggered by a post-mortem that found he was beaten while in custody, resulting in as many as 11 cracked ribs.

State Pathologist Eleni Antoniou concluded that Stephanou was the "victim of a beating" prior to his heart attack death.

"He (Stephanou) had fractured ribs, both on his left side and right side, which were caused by another person. They were recent," Antoniou told Reuters.

Stephanou’s family said the post-mortem "changed everything" and that they would weigh their options on what legal action they will take to "seek justice".

Justice Minister Sophocles Sophocleous said after being briefed by police top brass he was convinced Stephanou was beaten.


"Quite simply, it’s confirmed that the man was beaten, that’s certain," Sophocleous told state radio.

But the Antoniou’s post-mortem did not go challenged, as EuroMP and Marios Matsakis urged a new post-mortem carried out collectively by the island’s three State Pathologists to eliminate any shred of doubt.

Matsakis said if the case reaches European Courts, it’s likely Cyprus would become "a laughing stock" if there’s no indisputable confirmation of Antoniou’s results.

The former State Pathologist said it’s possible the rib fractures could have been caused during resuscitation efforts as paramedics applied pressure on his sternum to restart his heart.

This was inline with what a Turkish doctor suggested in an initial post-mortem in occupied Nicosia prior to the return of Stephanou’s body to his family.

In that post-mortem, Sermet Koc could not determine the exact cause of death, but saw no "evidence of trauma", Turkish Cypriot daily Star Kibris reported.


Additional toxicological and tissue tests would be carried out to pinpoint cause of death.

The UN force in Cyprus backed up the Turkish post-mortem conclusions, expressing "concern" at the "negative speculations" over Stephanou’s death.

Observing the procedure was an UNFICYP medical officer who confirmed that there was no evidence of trauma.

"In view of the UNFICYP medical officer, the deceased’s body showed no evidence of injuries other than those consistent with standard resuscitative procedures," UNFICYP said in a statement.

"The mission urges all concerned to exercise restraint and to show respect for the sensitivities of the bereaved family."

But a Greek Cypriot private pathologist attending the post-mortem on behalf of the family also cast doubt on the resuscitation-rib fracture hypothesis.

Panos Stavrinos said the fractures were to low on the rib cage to be caused by standard resuscitation.

Compounding the confusion are the circumstances surrounding Stephanou’s arrest and the charges on which he was held.

Turkish Cypriot media reported that Stephanou was suffering from cancer, but refused medical treatment offered by Turkish Cypriot authorities.


Greek Cypriot media countered with reports that Stephanou was denied medication.

Equally perplexing is the deafening silence from the government which said nothing about Stephanou’s arrest, detention and death.

The only ‘official’ reaction came from Diko which expressed sorrow at the death of Stephanou – a confidant of late President and Diko leader Spyros Kyprianou.

In a statement, the party said it backed the family’s right to shed light on Stephanou’s death.

Stephanou was reportedly involved in work in the occupied north to locate and retrieve stolen icons and other religious treasures looted from churches in the aftermath of the 1974 invasion.

|||'Custody' death questions
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