THE VICTIM of a racist attack is suing the state for breaching his human rights following the violent clashes that took place at the Rainbow Festival in Larnaca in 2010.
Sertunc Akdogu, a 32-year-old Cypriot musician- not immediately involved in the fracas between anti-migrant protesters and their anti-fascist adversaries- was stabbed three times just 200 metres from Larnaca police station by a group of masked people carrying weapons on November 5, 2010.
His colleague who was with him, Serhan Oncal, was also seriously injured after being beaten by members of the masked group with a baseball bat.
Nobody was ever charged with the attack.
Instead, the Attorney-general decided to prosecute Doros Polycarpou, representative of the migrant support group which organised the Rainbow Festival in Larnaca that year to counter the anti-migrant march already organised for the same day in the coastal town.
Many international NGOs heavily criticised the decision to charge Polycarpou, while failing to go after a single person from the crowd representing the anti-migrants, and also refusing to accept any responsibility on the part of the police force which was evidently unable to keep the peace that night.
On June 5, 2012, a Larnaca district court acquitted the KISA representative of the charges of rioting and participating in an illegal assembly. Polycarpou said he was acquitted after the prosecution failed to prove its case, noting that the court rejected testimonies given by police officers in court.
One officer had claimed he only made visual contact with Polycarpou during the fracas, however, video footage submitted by police as evidence showed the plain-clothed officer clearly making physical contact with the NGO member.
KISA argued that Polycarpou's involvement in the violent clashes was limited to trying to keep the two sides apart. The NGO also submitted evidence to police of anti-migrant marchers allegedly involved in the violence that ensued after the anti-migrant march passed next to the multicultural festival. The Legal Service has since launched criminal proceedings against a number of those identified by KISA, said Polycarpou yesterday.
Exactly two years on, on November 5, 2012, Akdogu and Oncal made an application for legal aid, with which they plan to sue the state for violating his human rights regarding a range of errors and omissions allegedly made by the institutions of the Republic before, during and after the violent clashes.
Akdogu and Oncal were not the only ones injured that night. Two men from Pakistan and Bangladesh, who did not take part in the trouble, were also injured.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Akdogu said he and his fellow musician went to Larnaca that night to play music in a multicultural event.
“We went there to make music, we didn’t even know much about the Rainbow Festival.” When the fighting started, they stayed back. “It was not our struggle,” he said.
Two hours later they made their way to the car to put their musical instruments away. Around 300 metres from the festival and 200m from the police station, they were attacked by a group of masked people, anywhere between 15 and 30 in number, said Akdogu.
They were carrying baseball bats and knives.
“They were running to the festival, and they attacked us brutally. They hit me on the head with a baseball bat and on my back. I had the guitar on my back and it broke, but it saved my life. They also stabbed me three times on my left side, puncturing my lung and a muscle,” he said.
They also pepper sprayed his face, but luckily missing his eyes, allowing him and Oncal to run away.
At the time, Akdogu was quick to clarify that the group did not know the two musicians were Turkish Cypriot, ruling out the possibility of interethnic violence.
However, two years on, Akdogu is ready to take action, feeling aggrieved that he saw no justice, and was left both physically and psychologically without support, as well as losing 5,000 euros worth of equipment. He accuses the police and government of silence, ignorance and apathy.
“For us this case is not over. It is not over until the system that creates racism, hatred, nationalism and xenophobia is punished and violence is condemned and punished through the courts, and justice will then be done,” he said.
“My goal is to do something positive, to use this experience to make a positive change, act as a bridge between the two communities, unite people, and show we are all human,” he said.