Rifle Fire Outside Cypriot Parliament

NICOSIA – A man who said he was protesting the government’s handling of an economic crisis that is bringing hardship to many – including confiscation of nearly half their bank accounts over 100,000 euros ($137,000) was taken into custody on Dec. 16 after firing a single rifle shot into the air outside the Parliament.

Spokesman Andreas Angelides said the man surrendered to Parliamentary guards after he fired the army-issue G3 rifle during the  afternoon. Police say the suspect told them he wanted to draw attention to the harm caused by the country’s economic hardship.

Angelides says the 33-year-old man faces charges of unlawfully discharging and transporting a weapon and illegal possession of explosives. The incident came two days after more protests against the bailout conditions.

Cyprus avoided bankruptcy in March when it agreed to a 10 billion euro ($13.67 billion) bailout from the Troika of the European Union-International Monetary Fund-European Central Bank (EU-IMF-ECB) that came with harsh austerity measures.

President Nicos Anastasiades, who campaigned against the deposit confiscation scheme implemented it almost immediately after taking office before later trying to persuade the Troika to change the terms he said were too onerous. He was rejected. Cypriots have been protesting for months to no avail.

The country’s economy is projected to shrink 7.7 percent of GDP this year, while unemployment is forecast to exceed 19 percent in 2014. Capital controls are still in place, limiting Cypriots to only 300 euros ($405) per day withdrawals from their accounts.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)