British woman charged over Facebook post calling Cyprus mayor “useless”
British woman charged over Facebook post calling Cyprus mayor “useless”.
A 35 year old musician was shocked when she was arrested on Monday in Cyprus for a Facebook comment on a local expats group, branding the local mayor “useless”.
Kaela Charalampous, from Liverpool, has been living in Greek Cyprus for 14 years with her husband and four year old son. “Never in a million years, did she consider that a social media post could lead to her criminal prosecution”, said Radha Stirling of Due Process International, who was alerted to the case by a mutual friend who runs the expat group.
We are used to seeing British nationals charged with social media comments in the Middle East, but for an EU country to criminally charge this woman is quite shocking. A politician should understand that public criticism and accountability are part of the job and that their voters should be able to voice their opinions freely. She didn’t abuse him, she simply voiced her opinion and if the mayor is so sensitive that being called ‘useless’ offends him, he has chosen the wrong career path.
“Kaela has been forced to issue a public apology on the Facebook group in both Greek and English, but this wasn’t sufficient. They have refused to drop the charges and have told her she faces a hefty fine of 4,000 Euros. The expat community in Cyprus have responded with support for the woman, who has never been in trouble in her life. The general feeling is that the charge is outrageous and raises questions about free speech in an EU country. Is the mayor going to charge anyone who doesn’t like him?”
“The decision to charge Kaela is political. The local prosecutor should have encouraged the mayor to drop the charges”, added advocate Radha Stirling, who represented Laleh Shahravesh, a woman detained in Dubai over a Facebook post.
The woman has been worried about the repercussions of a criminal conviction, as well as the potential for her to be harassed by authorities. She is afraid to be home alone with her four year old in case the police turn up and force her to the station in handcuffs.
“This is an outrageous assault on free speech from an EU nation. Such a policy would render half the nation criminally liable. Does Cyprus want to send a message to the world that it is so similar to Middle Eastern nations who regularly lock up dissidents and critics?”
Expats in Cyprus are already dismayed by overreaching lockdown regulations, the banning of music at restaurants, and widespread fines and arrests for violations. Criminalising people who voice their opinions about local policies is going to make Cyprus a far less attractive destination.