Convicted Cyprus minister resigns

NICOSIA (Reuters) – The Cypriot health minister resigned yesterday after being found guilty of trying to pervert the course of justice by asking a court to go easy on a reformed drug addict. In the first recorded case of a Cypriot cabinet minister being convicted of a criminal offense while in office, a court in the capital Nicosia found Dina Akkelidou, 48, guilty of trying to influence the outcome of a court decision in a drugs case. She had pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison, though she could be fined or handed a suspended sentence. The court will sentence her on Monday. While denying the charge itself, Akkelidou admitted she had indirectly tried to place information at the disposal of a judge who was about to sentence a reformed drug addict. «The gist of the matter is there is a need for everyone to be more sensitive on how to combat the scourge of drugs and rehabilitate people into the community,» the Communist AKEL party member said in a statement announcing her resignation – which was accepted by President Tassos Papadopoulos. The defendant had overcome his addiction while awaiting trial on charges of drug dealing. Akkelidou had argued that a jail sentence would obstruct his rehabilitation efforts. Akkelidou, a biochemist by training, had her first brush with controversy soon after her appointment, when journalists stumbled on classified state documents thrown out with the trash during spring cleaning at her ministry.