‘Police don’t need anyone’s permission’

POLICE yesterday went on the defensive, after being criticised by the Ombudswoman for last Friday’s sweep operation against migrants in old Nicosia.

Police Spokesman Michalis Katsounotos was asked to comment on Interior Minister Neoclis Sylikiotis’ claims that no such operation will ever be repeated again and that he hadn’t been informed about it beforehand.

“The police don’t need permission from anybody to impose order,” said Katsounotos.

He also criticised Ombudswoman Iliana Nicolaou for expressing her views on the matter, during which she called the force’s actions as “revolting” and “xenophobic”, among other things. He said she had not carried out the necessary investigations.

Noting the police force’s respect towards all independent institutions of Cyprus, Katsounotos said: “With her announcement, the Ombudswoman in her capacity as the Authority against Racism and Discrimination, used some heavy characterisations and expressed her revulsion, concluding with reference to an invasion and operations that harm the principles of a modern democratic State.

“Revulsion is expressed over hideous crimes and atrocities; unless a well-aimed operation by the police to implement law and impose order is considered a hideous crime,” added Katsounotos. “Invasion, with all due respect, is something we experienced only in 1974 by the Turkish occupying forces. Unless 25 justified court search warrants and 21 justified arrest warrants issued in a bid to investigate crime are considered an invasion.”

He argued that it would have been wiser and more advisable for an investigation to have been carried out before conclusions were made and especially before they were announced to the media.

“Police should have at least had the right to defend themselves and go through a hearing – like any other criminal – before the force was held responsible for supposedly reproducing xenophobic conceptions and racist stereotypes, provided that this is substantiated through the investigation she will carry out.”

Katsounotos added: “Unfortunately, there appears to be a preconception on part of the Authority against Racism and Discrimination, as without having any evidence in front of her, she is expressing conclusions in advance and making announcements.”

Defending the way the police handled the situation, Katsounotos said the force had since received a series of phone calls from a large section of the public, “expressing its approval and satisfaction over the police force’s actions, asking for a continuation of the measures that have been taken, with the aim of reinforcing the feeling of security and imposing law and order.”

The police force has been widely criticised for last week’s sting, which saw 257 policemen encircle the old town and carry out raids in migrant houses in the early hours of the morning. In total, 150 migrants were taken to police stations for identification, resulting in 36 arrests for illegal residence and 12 in connection with altercations at the Omeriye Mosque earlier this month.

Referring to the Mosque incidents, Katsounotos said both the public and media had condemned the police for being “ineffective, inactive, too tolerant and absent”.

Now, he said, the police were being criticised for taking action.

Interior Minister Sylikiotis said the committee in charge of migrant issues, which he presides over and includes members from other ministries and the police, would convene on October 13 to discuss the migratory policy.

Asked to comment on Katsounotos’ comment that the police would not be told by anyone what to do, the minister said for a foreigner to be arrested and deported, this is done following orders by the Interior Minister.

Meanwhile, migrant support group KISA will be holding a conference at its offices today at 6 pm, to discuss the police force’s actions and ways to deal with it.

All migrant communities and social networks are invited to attend, at 48 Arsinoe Street in old Nicosia.