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Ministry of Defence says probe into 'faulty' grenade ready.

By Constantinos Psillides

THE investigation into the explosion of a hand-grenade at the Asgata firing range where a young soldier lost his hand last April has been concluded and the report was handed to the Attorney General's office a week ago, a senior official at the Defence ministry told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

The official said that it is now up to the AG to study the report and deliver it to the House Defence committee, which in turn will make the findings public.

On April 3, 18-year old conscript Andreas Doulapas was seriously injured when a hand-grenade exploded in his hand, while sustaining injuries in his abdomen and thorax. Staff sergeant Athos Yiannakou, 38, was also injured in the incident.

Following the explosion, questions were raised over the quality of the ammunitions with surgeon Alkis Akiviadis accusing military officials for purchasing faulty equipment from Egypt.

Eye witnesses had said at the time that the grenade exploded prematurely, before Doulapas had a chance to throw it away.

Defence minister Christoforos Fokaides had promised then that a thorough investigation would be carried out and that the findings of the report would be made public, as to avoid any shadow of a cover-up.

The report was finished and delivered to the AG's office in May but Legal Services sent it back to the National Guard Headquarters (GEEF), saying it was "incomplete".

"We have delivered the second draft a week ago and now we wait," said the government official, adding that if the AG's office asks for a more detailed report they would gladly oblige. "Our goal is to present the AG's office with the best possible report. After the AG's office has what it needs, it is up to them to decide whether they should press charges against anyone," said the official, pointing out that the army was under no obligation to hand over the report to the AG.

"The army has its own court and legal services. They could have handled the case from a legal point of view and were under no obligation to hand t over to the AG. But the minister wanted to avoid even the scent of a cover-up. That's why he elected the path of full transparency. The people will know what the probe's findings are and the AG will decide on the proper course."

Asked why the second report was delayed, the Defence ministry official said that the investigator in charge of drafting the first report suffered a heart attack and had to take a month and a half off from work. "Upon his recovery he resumed his duties and completed the probe as per the request of the AG," he explained.

Asked if the Defence ministry or GEEF would release the report, the official said that this is impossible before the House Defence Committee had a look at it.

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Sep 4, 2014
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