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Government gets its way over phone tapping bill, MPs 'unenforceable' amendments withdrawn.

Parliament on Friday upheld a presidential veto and amended a law allowing phone tapping affording authorities a vital weapon in crime fighting, which police had been demanding for years.

"All the sides compromised, and we arrived at a result," Justice Minister Giorgos Savvides said afterwards, welcoming parliament's decision. "This law is an important weapon in the authorities' effort to fight organised crime and on the other hand it affords many safeguards, which satisfied MPs."

[eth]nhe president had vetoed two amendments passed by opposition parties when they first voted on the bill last month. In the government's view the amendments rendered the law unenforceable and raised constitutional issues.

The main problem was created by the addition of the words "serious cause" to the standard "probable cause" for a judge to be satisfied and approve a surveillance application by police.

A second amendment was also added, banning listening into phone conversations between lawyers and clients, thus extending attorney-client privilege to surveillance.

That, according to the president, also raised issued of equal treatment since it afforded lawyers more privileges than other citizens.

Eventually, MPs agreed to remove the term "serious cause" from the text. On Thursday they had also agreed on adding the phrase "provided that the contents of a private communication between attorney and client, that falls under professional confidentiality as defined by the law and regulations" cannot be accepted as evidence in any court process.

Friday's approval by parliament paves the way for the law to come into force and avoiding a potentially protracted legal process before the supreme court.

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Author:George Psyllides
Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Feb 7, 2020
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