The supreme court on Wednesday upheld a state appeal and ordered the resumption of a trial, which had been suspended and two defendants were acquitted, after evidence in the case was destroyed in a courthouse fire early in 2018.
The Nicosia criminal court acquitted the two men in August 2018 of 11 charges relating to possession and trafficking of seven kilos of cocaine and five kilos of cannabis.
The drugs were seized in Ypsonas, Limassol.
“The court ruled that the destruction of the drugs, which had been submitted by the prosecution as evidence during the trial and were in the custody of the court, deprived the defendants of the right to a fair trial,” Attorney-general Costas Clerides said at the time.
In its decision, the criminal court said presenting the evidence during the trial was impossible after the fire although some of the prosecution witnesses based their testimony on photographs of the exhibits.
The destruction of the evidence was a key argument used by the defense in its effort to convince the court that the defendants had been deprived of the right to a fair trial.
The court said the prosecution was not in any way responsible for the destruction of the evidence and in fact it had difficulties in presenting its case.
However, it added, the destruction resulted in establishing inequality of arms between the prosecution and the defence
A three-judge supreme court bench unanimously rejected the criminal court’s decision, arguing that it had not taken into account the evidence in its entirety.
The supreme court said the criminal court had failed to evaluate the evidence as a whole and had not come to any conclusions regarding credibility.
“We think the case should continue at the criminal court that initially tried it so that it can issue a final decision based on one hand on the existing findings, and, on the other hand, on what may come up, as a result of the overall evaluation of the evidence before it.”