The first official exchange of criminals between the TRNC and South Cyprus took place on Thursday at the Ledra Palace barricade, with the mediation of the United Nations.
Muhammet Salman of Pakistani origin, who is a suspect for the murder of 53 year-old Turkish Cypriot artist Hasan Işık Özgöçmen was handed over by the South Cyprus authorities. The most recent reports say that he was staying at a refugee camp in Larnaca, after fleeing North Cyprus. Additionally, four persons from Georgia, who are believed to be involved in a murder in the South, were handed over to the authorities in the South by the TRNC.
In statements on the issue, Hakki Önen, co-chairman of the Technical Committee on Crime and Criminal Matters, said that the exchange was important and that it had become possible following meetings held with the UN. He noted that in this manner, the suspects would be brought to justice and added that the committee would do anything possible to devlop this cooperation.
Referring to the issue, President Mustafa Akinci said the presidency had been informed on the developments both by the Attorney General’s office and Önen. Speaking after his meeting with UN Special Representative in Cyprus Elizabeth Spehar, Akinci expressed his satisfaction with the development and thanked all those who contributed to its realisation. “Neither the one side nor the other should be a safe haven for criminals to take refuge“, he added.
Moreover, Foreign Minister Kudret Ozersay stated that the exchange of criminals was possible as a result of unofficial meetings he had held with his interlocutor Andreas Mavroyiannis. He argued that only exchange of information had been held until today through the above-mentioned technical committee and that problems were created by the fact that no exchange of suspects and criminals could take place. He noted that this result was achieved after some contacts held by his ministry since the previous government’s period in office and the dialogue he had established with the Greek Cypriot side. “This situation should not be exploited politically. This is cooperation which came up as a result of a kind of unofficial agreement“, he noted.
Furthermore, Tufan Erhurman, chairman of the Republican Turkish Party (CTP), commented on his social media account on the developments, noting that this practice should constitute an example for the future.
Vice chairman of the settlers’ Revival Party (YDP), Ahmet Yonluer also congratulated Ozersay and all those who contributed to the development and wished for the continuation of these efforts for paving the way of the exchange of criminals.
Finally, according to BRT, Prime Minister, Ersin Tatar expressed his satisfaction with the beginning of the exchange of criminals. In a written statement he said: “No one can ignore the existing realities in Cyprus. We have been saying for a long time that these are positive to steps which will increase cooperation between the two communitiess, having the existing realities as a starting point. In this sense, we welcome with satisfaction the step taken on the issue of the return of criminals“.