NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The trial of a Briton charged with the premeditated murder of his ailing wife began Thursday in the Cypriot resort town of Paphos, with defense lawyers arguing that David Hunter should instead be charged with helping to commit suicide.
Justice Abroad, a group that defends Britons struggling with legal difficulties in foreign countries, says the case against Hunter, 74, is likely the first euthanasia case to go to trial in the eastern Mediterranean island nation . It comes as lawmakers debate whether to decriminalize euthanasia, amid strong opposition from conservative circles, including the influential Orthodox Church.
Hunter’s wife Janice, 74, died in December 2021 at the couple’s retirement home in Paphos where many of Britain’s 60,000 expats live.
Justice Abroad spokesman Michael Polak said Janice was on heavy medication for a type of blood cancer. He said Cyprus Attorney General George Savvides denied a defense request to lower the assisted suicide charge, which would likely keep Hunter out of jail, without giving reasons for his decision.
“No one believes Mr. Hunter should go to jail for this,” Polak told The Associated Press.
Speaking to UK newspaper The Mirror, Hunter’s daughter Lesley said her mother “begged him for a long time (to help her die) and was very clear about what she wanted”.
But prosecutors say there is no hard evidence — such as a written note — to suggest Hunter’s wife ever specifically asked him to help her die.
Prosecutors also disputed the existence of a medical diagnosis proving that Janice Hunter suffered from leukemia or “blood cancer”. They also said defense attorneys refused a deal for Hunter to plead guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter that would have resulted in a prison sentence of just a few years.
Polak countered that it was up to prosecutors to demonstrate a motive as to why Hunter would want to murder his wife.
He said there was an ‘unofficial’ offer to get Hunter to plead guilty to manslaughter, but there would be ‘no point’ in putting a man his age in jail, rejecting a suggestion prosecutors that any manslaughter charge would set a negative legal precedent.