January 25, 2008
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Kurdish protesters press for release of detained leader

Cyprus Mail - By Stefanos Evripidou

THE INTERIOR Ministry was the scene of multiple demonstrations yesterday as Iranian asylum seekers and Kurdish protestors filled the street outside the main gate with flags and banners.

Around 100 Kurds marched from Eleftheria Square to the Interior Ministry calling for the release of their leader Mohammed Ali Ahmad who was being detained in Block 10.

Ahmad is one of the founding leaders of the Kurdish political group Yekiti which has been banned in Syria. According to Athina Karyadi of the Cyprus-Kurdish Friendship Association (CKFA), Ahmad faces a life sentence if he returns to Syria.

Ahmad is also an asylum seeker who was serving a 45-day sentence for driving without insurance. As Karyadi noted, his sentence was much less than the six-month maximum because of mitigating circumstances, he was driving the car of his brother-in-law who was too drunk to drive.

After completing the sentence, instead of releasing him, police used a provision in the law which allows asylum seekers who have committed an offence to be detained until their application is processed. And so, Ahmad was moved to Block 10, like many asylum seekers who complete sentences for small offences. Unlike others though, he has all his documents and papers in check.

Karyadi maintained that during his time in Block 10, the authorities had issued a deportation order against him.

“He is legal here. They want to deport him and have been pushing him to sign deportation papers. If he goes back, he faces an automatic life sentence for being a key leader in Yekiti,” she noted.

Ahmad has a wife and four children living in Cyprus. Interior Minister Christos Patsalides came out of his office to speak to the protestors. He maintained that Cyprus was bound by international rules and laws on asylum that had to be followed and respected. He noted that the authorities were acting within the law by keeping him in jail until his asylum status could be determined since he had broken the law.

A representative from the migrant support group KISA questioned why Cyprus kept this “colonial law” that allowed a migration officer to detain someone indefinitely for committing a petty crime.

“This man is not a danger to public safety. Why do we still have these laws dating from colonial times?” asked Doros Polycarpou.

“We should all have trust in the institutions of the state, and to understand there are certain rules and principles that have to be followed,” said Patsalides. He made no mention of police efforts to deport him back to Syria.

After some commotion and promises by the protesters to camp outside the ministry until Ahmad was released, the minister left. Once back in his office, he invited the wife of Ahmad and representatives of the CKFA for talks. He told them he would look into the case and make a decision next Tuesday. The demonstrating crowd was sufficiently placated by his promise, and agreed to march back to Eleftheria Square.

Only a group of Iranian women and children protesting against the detention of their asylum seeking husbands were left behind, camped outside the main gate.


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