Minister in dock over dealer plea

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cypriot Health Minister Dina Akkelidou is to stand trial for writing to a judge seeking leniency to ensure a suspected drug dealer was not sent to prison, the attorney-general said yesterday. It is believed to be the first time a serving cabinet minister will be put in the dock. Akkelidou, the only female minister in the cabinet and a member of the AKEL communist party, wrote to a district court judge trying a drugs case seeking leniency for the accused. The court made the letter public last month. Attorney-General Solon Nikitas said he has given instructions for a criminal prosecution to proceed. «This is what I have decided based on the evidence that I had before me,» Nikitas told reporters. Akkelidou has apologized for her «mistake,» saying it was a «totally innocent» act to help the drug suspect remain in rehabilitation. She is expected to face a charge of attempting to pervert the course of justice. The minister came under fire last year after confidential documents that should have been destroyed were left in garbage sacks under a Health Ministry staircase.