NEWS

Cyprus court clears ex-minister

NICOSIA (AFP) – Cyprus’s attorney general, Solon Nikitas, yesterday decided to resign after the country’s Supreme Court acquitted a former health minister who was found guilty of perverting the course of justice. «It saddens me, but after the Supreme Court decision, there is no reason for me to continue to serve the high office of attorney general,» Nikitas said in a statement. «As a consequence, I will submit my resignation to the president of the republic.» Dina Akkelidou resigned in November after becoming the first serving minister to be convicted of a felony. Nikitas, a former Supreme Court judge, was instrumental in ensuring the case went to court but came in for strong criticism from Akkelidou’s party, the powerful communist AKEL. The only female minister in the Cabinet, Akkelidou had written a letter to a judge trying a drugs case to seek leniency for a defendant accused of dealing in heroin. She was fined 1,000 pounds (1,720 euros) by a Nicosia district court but appealed against the verdict, saying it was a «totally innocent» act to help the drug suspect remain in rehabilitation. And a 9-3 majority vote in the high court yesterday agreed with her, overturning the verdict and acquitting her. «There was no risk that the course of justice would be harmed by this communication,» the court ruled. The minister did «not intend to commit a criminal act.» Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said the ruling «exonerated» the former minister, who last week was appointed as special adviser to EU Health and Consumer Commissioner Markos Kyprianou, a fellow Cypriot.