51 Acta Jur. Hng. 1 (2010)

handle is hein.journals/ajur51 and id is 1 raw text is: 1216-2574/USD  20.00                                                      ACTA JURIDICA HUNGARICA
 2010 Akademiai Kiad6, Budapest                                           51, No 1, pp. 1-34 (2010)
                                                                      DOI: 10.1556/AJur51.2010.1.1


Revisiting the Acquittal of 10 Policemen:

Issues of Judicial Independence, Trial by Media and Fair

Trial in Cyprus

Abstract. In a recent judgment in the Efstathiou case, the Assize Court of Nicosia, Cyprus, acquitted ten Policemen
charged with criminal offences related to alleged beating in 2005 of two Cypriot students. That verdict led to
spontaneous reactions across the country, with people publicly protesting against and criticizing the judiciary.
Among   those that made scathing public comments were the Attorney-General of Cyprus and senior Cypriot
lawyers. In its judgment, the court had suggested that media comments about the case unduly interfered with the
fair trial of the case and amounted to contempt of court. On the whole, this case raises the issues of independence
of the judiciary, trial by media and fair trial. There are two opposing views on the propriety or otherwise of the
media coverage of the case as well as on whether, and if so, to what extent, the judiciary can be properly criticized.
Essentially, this article seeks to consider the issues ofjudicial independence, trial by media and fair trial as well as
the closely associated issue of contempt of court arising from the Efstathiou case and in relation to the common-
law rooted Cypriot legal system. It argues that the right to fair trial is an inseparable part of a democratic society
and that while the right to freedom of expression is a fundamental human right and undoubtedly the bulwark of
a democratic society, it is not realizable without an independent judiciary which is equally indispensable in a
democratic society. Hence, there is a great need to recognize the limits of the right to freedom of expression in
order to sustain the independence of the judiciary and ensure the right to a fair trial.

Keywords: Judicial Independence, Trial by Media and Fair Trial, Contempt of Court, Common-law/Commonwealth
Countries, European Convention of Human Rights and European Court of Human Rights, Cyprus and Cypriot

                                                  The author  dedicates  this article to all those
                                            who  believe in Judicial Independence   world-wide.

1.  Introduction

On   19 March   2009  the Assize  Court  of Nicosia, Cyprus,   stirred up a hornet's nest by  its
decision  to discharge and  acquit the ten policemen   accused  of various criminal  offences in
the case  of Republic  v. Efstathiou &  Others.' The  criminal  charges had  emanated   from  an
alleged  incident of high-handedness and brutality visited on two hapless Cypriot students
by  the  accused  persons   in December 2005. Importantly, the unfortunate incident was
allegedly  captured by a secret video which  was  repeatedly  shown  on television programmes
and  published  in print and  online  newspapers   before  and  allegedly during  the trial. The
revulsion  of the civil society over  the incident  was  great, and so  was  a yearning  for the

      * Professor of Public Law and Chair, University of Nicosia Law School, Cyprus. Also, Visiting
Professor of Law, University of Kent Law School, Canterbury, UK.
        I am indebted to Athanasiou Thanasis Michalakis  for his research assistance in writing this
article. I am also grateful to him for the generous support he extended to me during my six years so-
journ in the Republic of Cyprus.
        E-mail: ebeku.k@unic.ac.cy, ksael@hotmail.com
      I Republic v. Efstathiou & Others (Case No. 17179/06), unreported Judgment of 19 March 2009
(Assize Court, Nicosia, Cyprus).

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