Cyprus said to suspect Azeri man of terror in alleged plot against Israelis

During court hearing in which suspect is remanded for six more days, police reportedly reveal their suspicions; Cypriot authorities said to rebuff claims of Iranian involvement

Illustrative: A female police officer adjust her mask as she guards at Cyprus' main airport in Larnaca, on June 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)
Illustrative: A female police officer adjust her mask as she guards at Cyprus' main airport in Larnaca, on June 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

Cypriot authorities were said to be probing an Azeri national on terror suspicions as part of an alleged plot to assassinate one or more Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus, an Israeli network reported Wednesday.

The suspect was ordered held in custody another six days during a hearing Wednesday, according to Cypriot reports.

During the hearing, officials unsealed documents listing 11 charges the man is being investigated on, including terror activity, attempted murder, belonging to a criminal organization, conspiracy to commit a crime, and being in the country illegally, Israel’s Channel 12 news reported.

A lawyer for the suspect, whose name has not been released, told the Israeli network that his client denies any terror links and has nothing to hide.

The man was arrested last week on reported suspicions of planning to attack one or more Israeli businesspeople in Cyprus. Israeli authorities have insisted that the man was part of an Iran-backed terror plot aimed against Israelis on the island.

The lawyer denied any Iranian connection to the reported assassination attempt, Channel 12 reported, and Cypriot authorities also do not believe Iran is behind the plot, according to local media.

“The investigating unit has not proven these things to us,” the lawyer said.

Reports have indicated that the plot was directed at Israeli businessman Teddy Sagi, though Israeli authorities have denied he was specifically targeted.

Teddy Sagi. (courtesy)

The Philenews website reported Wednesday that Cypriot authorities think the alleged would-be hitman’s target in the plot was not Sagi, but other members of his company.

Sagi is the founder of the gambling software company Playtech, which has offices in Nicosia.

Sagi had told Channel 12 on Monday evening that he was never tipped off or warned and decided to leave Cyprus for unrelated reasons. “The headlines sounded very scary, but it had nothing to do with me,” he said. “I didn’t receive any notification to leave.”

Some sources had previously claimed that the foiled attack was an assassination attempt against Sagi linked to his business dealings. But the Israeli government on Monday blamed “Iranian terror” for last week’s planned attack, and said Sagi was targeted only because he was an Israeli businessman.

The alleged hired killer of Azerbaijani origin, who arrived in Cyprus on a flight from Russia using a Russian passport, had not been cooperating with police investigators. But on Tuesday he showed them two places in Ayia Napa where he had rented cars, the Philenews report said.

Landing in Larnaca on the Cypriot southern side of the island, the suspect was said to have made his way to the city of Paralimni, near the northern, Turkish-controlled part of the island, where he rented a room and two vehicles, reports said.

Larnaca International Airport, Cyprus. (Wikimedia Public Domain)

Citing Cypriot police suspicions, Channel 12 news said that the suspect then traveled back to Larnaca, where he attempted to find Israeli businessmen in the Angumi business district, where most of the island’s Israelis work.

He reportedly crossed the Turkish-Cypriot border back and forth a number of times on a bike.

In Larnaca, the assassin reportedly staked out an office complex known to be the workplace of multiple Israelis. The Channel 12 report said he was caught on security cameras snooping around the neighborhood, evidence that was eventually used to apprehend him.

Days later, he was arrested in Nicosia by Cypriot police from the Anti-Terrorism Unit with a gun and silencer on him that he had obtained while in Cyprus, according to media reports.

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