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Monday, December 19, 2005

Media Frenzy

The Blairs became the subject of a media frenzy in Cyprus a couple of days ago when Mrs. Blair confirmed she would be heading the defence of David and Linda Orams. The Orams were found guilty of illegally building on land belonging to a Greek-Cypriot refugee and were ordered by a Cypriot court to pay compensation to Meletios Apostolides. The court also threatened to seize assets in Britain if the Orams do not comply with the ruling. I wasn’t going to comment on the matter as I see nothing wrong with Mrs. Blair defending British citizens. In any event, what good is the war chest the Orams and their supporters built up when the title deed of Meletios Apostolides is unquestionable? The reason for commenting on this today was because two things have occurred since Mrs. Blair’s involvement in this case. For one, it has unified the Cypriot people who feel the world has turned a blind eye to their plight. More importantly, the publicity may deter sensible people pursuing financial gain from illegal land grab. Below is an article (from the Cyprus Weekly archives) that discusses this matter in greater detail.


Talat fury as refugee takes property case to UK

By Philippos Stylianou

TURKISH Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat is reportedly furious at the prospect of British and other EU nationals facing legal action in their own countries for buying Greek Cypriot refugee property in the occupied areas.

But it emerges he had been directly warned about this and remained unimpressed.

Greek Cypriot lawyer Constantinos Kandounas, who is determined to have a Nicosia court decision enforced through the British High Court against a middle-aged English couple for building on such property in Lapithos, near Kyrenia, met Talat face to face in September and pleaded with him to put a stop to the mass sale of Greek Cypriot houses and land.

"I saw Talat in July and September and on the second occasion I told him he could not talk of peace and at the same time allow our properties to be sold out," Kandounas, a rapprochement activist told the Cyprus Weekly at his law office in old Nicosia, and added:

"I told him he must do something to put a stop to this, otherwise there would be nothing left for the Greek Cypriots to return to; I also said that we could not just sit around and see our properties disappear, and I specifically told him that I was going to launch law suits against foreigners who ‘bought’ our properties. Talat said to me: ‘Do what you like.’ "

Candounas, himself a refugee from Famagusta, did just that and two months later he landed the first ever court decision ordering foreign EU nationals out of usurped Greek Cypriot property in the North, in this case an orchard in Lapithos belonging to CTO architect Meletis Apostolides, on which David and Linda Orams from Hove, Sussex, had built a luxury villa with swimming pool two years ago.

The judgment has sent shivers to all others who knowingly or not have settled on refugee property, since a 2001 EU regulation makes national court rulings enforceable in the country of the guilty party. And this is what Candounas and his client intend to do now that Cyprus is a full member of the EU.

The decision issued by the Nicosia District Court on 9 November 2004 orders the Orams to demolish the house along with the swimming pool and perimeter wall and return the property to the rightful owner without further ado. Furthermore, they are ordered to pay 7,654,83 cents in damages and 294.41 a month from December until the property is returned to Apostolides, plus court costs.

Insulting

Meletis Apostolides, who was 24 when his family were forced out of their home and property by the invading Turkish army in 1974, holds dear memories of his life there and wants to replant the citrus grove uprooted for development by the British couple.

"I do not have anything against the British, Germans or any other nationals coming to live in Cyprus as long as they don’t do it as receivers of stolen goods," Apostolides, a father of two adult children, told The Cyprus Weekly. "This behavior is insulting to the British who live legitimately in the free part of the island and to the well-meaning English people at large. A message must be given that they cannot do this sort of thing without consequences."

As the enforcement of the Nicosia court decision in the occupied areas is not feasible, Apostolides could ask the English High Court to confiscate the Orams’ property assets in the UK to meet the pecuniary aspect of the decision.

According to the EU regulation, following a request by a national court to have its judgment enforced by the courts in the guilty party’s country, the latter courts cannot review the merits of the original decision but can only decide on procedural matters.

The London Times in a full page article under the title "Britons face losing homes in Cyprus as refugees reclaim land" wrote that it will be the first time that the High Court has tested the EU 2001 regulation.

Apostolides said he was shocked to find out that a house stood in the place of their old orchard and decided to do something about it. He started by finding out who the trespassers were and when he achieved this he looked for the right lawyer to handle his case.

Lawyer Constantinos Kandounas said the crucial part was serving both the law suit and the court judgment on the Orams. When they filed the case at the Nicosia District Court they also had to hand it to the respondents in Lapithos.

This they did under pouring rain knocking at the Orams’ door with a court bailiff and a Turkish Cypriot employee of Kandounas. Linda Orams took the documents but refused to sign for them.

The Orams failed to appoint a defence until it was too late and the court had already issued its judgment in favor of the applicant Meletis Apostolides. Serving the court decision on the trespassing couple proved easier, as the plaintiffs had the cooperation of the Oram’s Turkish Cypriot lawyer Minhan Sagiroglu, at whose office the judgment was served. Yet the Orams refused to sign.

The Orams this week finally applied unilaterally to the Nicosia District Court for a stay of the decision and to have it set aside. Kandounas has asked the Court to allow his participation in the proceedings and at the same time has filed another case against the Orams for contempt of court in refusing to comply with its ruling.

All three cases - the Orams’ application, Kandounas application to participate in the proceedings and the contempt of court - will be heard on December 20 and, depending on the outcome, Apostolides will ask the British High Court to enforce the Cypriot court’s decision in the UK.

"The Orams will most probably contest this, but their options are limited by the EU regulation," Kandounas said, and added: "They will have to prove that they had a good reason for not appointing a defence in the case against them, and also that they have a good case."

Kandounas is well-known for his participation in the bicommunal contact effort, having set up his own information centre for Turkish Cypriots when movement restrictions were eased. He has also made a written submission to the Select Committee of the British Parliament which is carrying out an inquiry on Cyprus and was interviewed by the Committee during its recent visit to the island.

In his interview with the Cyprus Weekly, Kandounas said he is preparing more law suits against other EU citizens, besides Britons, who have usurped Greek Cypriot property in the occupied areas.

"We have to react if we really want to work for a solution to our problem," he said.


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