Cypriot police on Saturday (13 February) used water cannon and tear gas to break up a rare protest in the capital, as hundreds demonstrated against government corruption and coronavirus restrictions.
Protesters, including families with children and young men and women in black hoodies and balaclavas, moved through central Nicosia, blocking traffic on several major streets, an AFP journalist said.
Some beat drums and shouted at dozens of police in riot gear, while others held large black banners that read in Greek, “We have to go onto the streets to fight fear”.
Police responded with water cannon and tear gas to break up the gathering, which is prohibited under coronavirus restrictions.
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One protester was seen lying on the ground suffering from the effects of tear gas.
Protest organisers on social media had called for the protest to say “enough” to “state authoritarianism”, “the failed management of the pandemic” and “corruption”.
Cyprus in January unveiled a series of measures to tackle corruption, months after alleged abuses were uncovered in a controversial “golden passports” scheme for foreign investors.
Nicosia had long faced pressure from Brussels to reform the scheme over concerns it may have helped organised crime gangs infiltrate the European Union.
“The government has lost legitimacy after the passport scandal and they are using the pandemic as a reason to stop protests,” Andreas, 26, a lawyer and part of the organisers’ legal team who declined to provide his surname, told AFP.
Cyprus has begun cautiously easing its national lockdown following a decline in the spread of Covid-19 infections that peaked after Christmas.
The Mediterranean island went into lockdown on 10 January for the second time since last March after daily cases hit a record 907 on 29 December.