Greek Cypriot MEP Marios Matsakis Jailed By British Occupation Forces in Cyprus And Goes On Hunger Strike
(The Article Below Is Reproduced For Fair Use And Educational Purposes)
Defiant Matsakis refuses bail and goes on hunger strike
By Elias Hazou
MAVERICK MEP Marios Matsakis has remained defiant, refusing to post bail that would secure his release from a holding centre at the Sovereign British Base (SBA) in Dhekelia.
In the meantime he is said to have gone on a hunger strike.
The controversial politician was arrested Thursday by SBA police in front of a delegation from the European Parliament that was visiting Cyprus.
Matsakis was taken into custody because of two outstanding arrest warrants against him involving two incidents during which he had reportedly caused damage to SBA property and vehicles during last year's anniversary of the EOKA struggle against British colonial rule.
Specifically, he had spray-painted a military Land Rover and allegedly caused criminal damage to an SBA police patrol car.
The MEP was arrested and handcuffed while on board a bus taking members of a delegation from the European Parliament Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety that were visiting the antennae site in the British base area of Akrotiri.
Appearing in court later in the day, Matsakis demonstrated his defiance to SBA authorities by remaining seated while Judge Raymond Navqui stepped in, and refused to pay a £500 bail for his release.
The anti-British MEP said that he did not recognise the British Bases and therefore would not pay any fine to them, shouting "long live the Cyprus Republic!" as he was hauled off to his cell.
He has often referred to the SBA as the "British occupation forces in Cyprus".
Unless and until he posts bail, he will remain behind bars until his trial date on May 15.
His partner and son visited him yesterday at noon at the Dhekelia prison where he is currently being held. They said Matsakis looked "stressed", but added he was sticking to his guns, refusing to recognise the SBA court.
He was also examined by a physician and found to be in good health.
"We know he missed breakfast yesterday… but cannot say for sure whether he has begun a hunger strike," SBA spokesman Dennis Barnes told the Mail.
Barnes also put paid to speculation that, as an MEP, Matsakis enjoyed immunity within the SBA, which is British territory.
He said the bases had a "unique status" in that, while they were part of British territory, they had not adopted the EU acquis.
The status of the SBA is defined in the 1960 Treaty of Establishment of the Republic.
"No one has immunity to commit crimes, or alleged crimes, inside the SBA… including Mr Matsakis," said Barnes. "So far Mr Matsakis has not played the immunity card," he added.
The SBA spokesman also commented on media conjecture that the helicopter transferring Matsakis from Akrotiri to Dhekelia had flown over Cyprus airspace, which supposedly left open a window for his handing over to Cypriot authorities.
He said the chopper did not cross Cypriot airspace, but even if it had the detainee [Matsakis] was on board a British aircraft – and consequently on British territory – at the time.
"Mr Matsakis was moved to Dhekelia, where a proper prison facility exists, so he could be more comfortable there. The base at Akrotiri has holding cells for temporary detainment only," explained Barnes.
Sources said that Matsakis had informed SBA authorities of his precise whereabouts on Thursday, suggesting the MEP might be pulling off yet another publicity stunt.
Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashardis confirmed to the Mail that the Foreign Ministry had issued a verbal demarche to the British High Commission over the MEP's arrest.
Yesterday all political parties joined in denouncing the illegality of Matsakis' arrest and incarceration President Tassos Papadopoulos said that the Republic questioned the jurisdiction of SBA courts, but remarked that these objections should be raised at the proper venue, "in court, and not with gestures".
"We hope there will soon be developments in this affair… but nothing is for sure," added the President.
It is hardly the first time Matsakis has been in hot water. On New Year's Eve 2005 he was arrested by Turkish Cypriot authorities for having pulled down a Turkish flag from an unmanned sentry post.