Cyprus police use tear gas, water cannons against anti-government protesters

Police in the island nation of Cyprus fired tear gas and used water cannon in rare skirmishes with protesters rallying against corruption and restrictions imposed over the coronavirus pandemic.

Hundreds of protesters on Saturday gathered at a park in central Nicosia where they were surrounded by dozens of police officers in riot gear.

Demonstrators gathered to protest against “state authoritarianism” and corruption over a controversial “golden passport” scheme for foreigners that was scrapped last year after an investigation implicated high-ranking officials in passport sales.

Organisers and protesters voiced anger over the government’s response to the pandemic, which has battered the Cypriot economy and triggered stringent lockdown restrictions.

Most protesters were seen wearing masks. Young children and at least two people in wheelchairs, as well as young men and women in black hoodies and balaclavas.

Kathimerini local news website said people were fined for breaking COVID-19 restrictions.

The pandemic has infected at least 35,000 people and killed some 230 across the divided Mediterranean island.

The Republic of Cyprus has begun cautiously easing its national lockdown following a decline in the spread of infections that peaked after Christmas.