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Cyprus Police Chief Fired Over Protest

NICOSIA – Cyprus’ President on March 27 fired the police chief over his handling of a Greek Cypriot far-right group’s protest against a former leader of the island’s breakaway Turkish Cypriots.

President Nicos Anastasiades informed Police Chief Michalis Papageorgiou of his immediate dismissal in a letter, a day after some 100 National People’s Front members noisily protested the presence of Mehmet Ali Talat at a cultural center in Limassol, a coastal city in the island’s internationally recognized, Greek Cypriot south.

Anastasiades said he has asked authorities to investigate complaints that one Turkish Cypriot journalist attending the event suffered injuries, while another had his camera stolen. “I want to make clear that the state won’t accept any form of fascist behavior wherever it comes from,” Anastasiades said in a statement.

Papageorgiou told The Associated Press earlier that three people had been arrested following the protest. He said a plate glass window was cracked and a lighted flare thrown.

Anastasiades also cited Papageorgiou’s “inadequate discharging of duties” in combating serious crime as another key reason for his decision.

Cyprus was divided in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup aiming to unite the island with Greece. Talat was in Limassol to deliver a speech on reunification prospects a month after a new round of peace talks began. U.S. Ambassador to Cyprus John Koenig, who was in the audience, tweeted that “extremists can’t silence dialogue or kill hope.”

Turkish Cypriot leader Dervis Eroglu also issued a statement condemning the incident, which he said undermines efforts to foster confidence between the two communities.

In a statement posted on its website, the NPF denied that the protest had turned violent and insisted that Talat was unwelcome as long as the island remains divided. Founded in 2008, the NPF espouses a hard-line nationalist ideology. It garnered 1 percent in the country’s 2011 parliamentary elections.

Papageorgiou said protesters cracked a window while a Turkish Cypriot attending the event had his camera taken from him.

Government spokesman Christos Stylianides strongly condemned the group’s “unlawful actions.” The NPF only garnered one percent in the country’s 2011 Parliamentary elections.

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