STRASBOURG, France (CN) — Europe’s top rights court on Tuesday found no fault with Cyprus’ use of a conspirator-turned-informant to convict four people for the 2010 murder of a prominent businessman.
Grigoris Xenofontos, Anastasis Krasopoulis and Elli Skordelli complained to the European Court of Human Rights that the testimony of the group’s getaway driver, Theophanis Hadjigeorgiou, had not been used in accordance with fair trial standards.
Media mogul Andis Hadjicostis, a father of two, was shot twice with a shotgun as he arrived home in the country’s capital, Nicosia. Prosecutors claimed Skordelli, a former TV presenter on the island's most commercially successful station, was fired by Hadjicostis and took out a hit on her former boss.
Cypriot police received an anonymous tip that Hadjigeorgiou had played a role in the murder. He was arrested three days later and eventually confessed, telling the police that, together with her brother, Krasopoulis, Skordelli had orchestrated the murder and hired Xenofontos to carry out the hit. Another man who played a role in organizing the murder, Andreas Grigoriou, was also convicted.
Hadjigeorgiou was given witness protection and immunity for agreeing to testify against the other four. In 2013, all four were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. The siblings owned a 21% share in Sigma, one of the many media companies owned by Hadjicostis, and during their trial prosecutors alleged they were hoping to take control of the company in the wake of his death.
Skordelli, Krasopoulis and Xenofontos unsuccessfully attempted to appeal their convictions in Cypriot courts before filing a complaint with the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights. Created in 1959 by the European Convention of Human Rights, the court protects the civil and political rights of Europeans.
According to the trio, Hadjigeorgiou only testified because of the offer of immunity and there was no oversight mechanism for the attorney general, who negotiated the arrangement.
The seven-judge panel, however, found nothing wrong with the deal as the Cypriot courts had established there was no quid pro quo, or favor in exchange for something. Hadjigeorgiou had confessed to the police without the promise of immunity, the judges noted.
"The Convention does not prohibit a domestic court from relying on incriminating testimony given by an accomplice," the ruling states.
The group also argued that the length of the proceedings, which lasted more than three years, violated their right to a fair trial. Although the rights court acknowledged the duration of the trial was long, it said the case was extremely complex and required more time.
‘’Contract murders are generally hard to investigate and as many as four co-defendants were on trial,” the judges wrote.
All three men are serving life sentences at the Central Prison of Nicosia in Cyprus.Follow @mollyquell
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