Hunger Strike Outside Presidential Palace
Members of the 'Indignants' movement have gone on hunger strike outside the Presidential Palace in Nicosia in protest over the lack of justice for the families of the 13 men who were killed in the explosion at Evangelos Florakis naval base.
Criminal charges after a police investigation into who was responsible for the blast have not yet been announced by Attorney-general Petros Clerides. He is expected to announce his decision by the end of next month.
A government-appointed inquiry which largely blamed President Christofias for the July 11th explosion was rejected by the president, who refused to accept blame or to step down over the findings.
On October 3rd, President Demetris Christofias, former Defence Minister Costas Papacostas and former Foreign Minister Markos Kyprianou were found to carry personal and political responsibility for the deadly explosion, said Polys Polyviou who led the one-member committe appointed by the Cabinet.
Christofias, as head of state, has the heaviest responsibility for the tragedy which took 13 lives, said Polyviou.
The explosion was caused by the combustion of unstable weapons in 98 containers stored at the naval base, and was not due to sabotage, said Polyviou.
"The explosion was due to the way they were stored without any protection under neglectful and irresponsible conditions...Samples were never sent for chemical analysis, there were no security measures to ensure their safety," he said.
The president was responsible for the decision to bring the cargo confiscated from Iran in 2009 and there was no consideration given to the fact that it was stored next to Vasiliko power station which was critically damaged in the explosion, said Polyviou.
Even though the president never signed a decision to store the explosives at Mari naval base, the decision still belongs to him, said the investigator. The entire approach to the operation was neglectful from the point the cargo was unloaded from the Monchegorsk ship, he said.
The cargo's danger was known to all involved, from the minister of defence to the presidential advisor Leonidas Pantelides, said Polyviou. Christofias knew about the danger as of the first moment it arrived in Cyprus and his latest information was on September 6th, 2010, according to testimony given to Polyviou during the course of his investigation.
Although help and explosives expertise was offered from foreign governments in the EU, it was rejected by the foreign minister, said Polyviou. The evidence is clear that there were offers of help, he said. Furthermore, warnings from army officials that the explosives were becoming unstable were met with the answer that there were political reasons to leave the containers at the naval base, he said. The National Council was not involved at all except for one meeting in January 2009 when they were informed of the decision to confiscate the arms from Iran, he said.
The navy's commanders were never informed of the cargo's contents, they were simply told that it was in the national interest to keep them at the base. Commodore Andreas Ioannides and commander of Evangelos Florakis base Lambros Lambrou were both killed fighting the fire that culminated in the explosion and Polyviou described their actions as heroic.
"I disagree completely with any attempts to lay the blame on the navy commanders," said Polyviou.