NEWS

In Brief

ASLAM CASE

Court turns down request to extradite human-trafficking suspect The Supreme Court turned down, by a three-to-two majority decision yesterday, a request to extradite Javed Aslam, the head of the Pakistani Unity Organization, to Islamabad on human-trafficking charges. Pakistan has requested the extradition, alleging that Aslam was involved in smuggling illegal immigrants into Greece, but his supporters claim he is being targeted because he spoke out against an alleged interrogation of Pakistani migrants in July last year. The Supreme Court found that the charges against Aslam were unfounded and that there is no relevant extradition treaty between Greece and Pakistan. DRUG HAUL Narcotics squad seizes 54,000 ecstasy pills, arrests Kurdish suspect Narcotics squad officers seized over 54,000 ecstasy pills after raiding an apartment in Athens, police said yesterday. A 31-year-old Turk of Kurdish origin was arrested following the raid, one of the largest hauls ever in Greece. A total of 54,248 ecstasy pills- weighing 14 kilos – were confiscated from an apartment in the western suburb of Haidari where the man is believed to have been living for the past two years. The unnamed 31-year-old is believed to have traveled frequently to Germany and the Netherlands and to have been part of an international drug ring. CYPRUS MINISTER Pasiardis takes on new role Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos yesterday appointed government spokesman Christodoulos Pasiardis as the new defense minister. Pasiardis will be sworn in on Monday. He replaces Nikos Symeonidis, who died of lung problems last week. Senior presidential aide Vassilis Palmas was appointed the new government spokesman. Helicopter escape Convicted murderer Alket Rizai told a Piraeus magistrate yesterday that he was not involved in organizing a breakout from Korydallos Prison last year in which a helicopter landed in the exercise yard and lifted him and Vassilis Palaiocostas, the brother of Greece’s most wanted criminal at the time, to freedom. Rizai said that he had simply taken advantage of the situation last June to escape. Rizai was recaptured three months later but has been charged with killing two people during that period and authorities believe someone helped him to escape from jail in order to hire the Albanian national as a hitman. Evros bridge The government submitted a draft law to Parliament yesterday to herald the construction of a new bridge over the Evros River to link northeastern Greece with Turkey. Athens and Ankara agreed in January 2004 to build a new road bridge linking the Kipoi and Ipsala border posts but the plan has not been put into action. There is already a bridge over the Evros but the new bridge will be wider, offering a single lane in each direction to cars and trucks travelling between the two countries. Taxi raids Two 25-year-old men have been arrested in connection to the recent armed holdups of six taxi drivers in the western Athens areas of Peristeri, Haidari and Aegaleo, authorities said yesterday. Police are also searching for another man, aged 28, who is believed to have taken part in the crimes. Family affair A father, aged 61, and his 34-year-old son were arrested on the island of Rhodes yesterday after being caught smoking cannabis together, authorities said. An inspection of their two homes uncovered 650 grams of cannabis and nearly 16,000 euros in cash believed to have been made from drug-related activities. Fire damage A three-story building was damaged in the old center of Hania, Crete, yesterday due to a fire that broke out early in the day, authorities said. No one was hurt in the incident. Some 26 firefighters using six fire trucks were involved in the operation to put out the blaze before it spread to adjoining buildings. An investigation has been launched into the causes of the fire.