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Media Watch 2003

05 September 2003
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Alexia Saoulli
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 5 September 2003.
Prison threat on dealings with the north

GREEK CYPRIOTS could face up to 10 years in jail if the House of Representatives passes a bill next month which criminalises dealings with unrecognised authorities in the occupied areas.

The bill would not include anyone who had been forced to co-operate with the occupation authorities, such as the enclaved or Greek Cypriots brought before a “court” in the occupied areas.

The bill was due to be submitted to the House by opposition DISY yesterday, but will be considered instead on September 18, when Parliament meets to vote on legislation relating to EU harmonisation.

If passed, the controversial bill would ban any active co-operation with an organ or authority that was founded as a result of the presence of occupation troops in Cyprus. Anyone found guilty of breaking the law could face up to 10 years imprisonment.

However, the bill faced intense opposition from the government and other political parties yesterday. Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said: “This tactic is not appropriate and the government is not in agreement with this policy.” The bill comes in the wake of shock revelations that a Morphou refugee contacted Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash seeking compensation on behalf of 15 refugees for their properties in the occupied areas.

Denktash’s property compensation committee evaluates Greek Cypriot refugees’ applications for compensation or exchange of property in the occupied north, and was set up by Turkey as the domestic remedy, which Greek Cypriots must first exhaust before applying to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for loss of ownership and use. This follows Titina Loizidou’s landmark win against Turkey, in which the ECHR ordered Ankara to pay about $900,000 for the loss of use of her property in Kyrenia, plus moral damages, costs, and interest.

Applicants to the ECHR must first exhaust all domestic legal remedies, but Greek Cypriot refugees had been able to apply straight to the court because of the Turkish occupation. The ECHR is now examining Turkey’s claim that the commission should serve that purpose. DISY leader Nicos Anastassiades said yesterday the bill sought to protect the constitutional order, not to limit the practice of the right to free movement. He said it was necessary in light of isolated applications to Denktash’s compensation committees, which undermined the authority and foundation of the Cyprus Republic.

But KS EDEK leader Yiannakis Omirou hit back and said it was incomprehensible for Greek Cypriots to weaken the Republic’s foundation. He said the Republic and its foundations were sufficiently protected on both a constitutional and legal level and that the penal code could deal with any undermining of the constitution.

The United Democrats issued a statement saying that the few isolated cases should be dealt with “with determination” and not legal or punitive measures. “The main message we must convey is that the Cyprus Republic is a just state that does not alter its justice according to political junctures. This will be the most persuasive position before the international community as well as international courts,” it said. Nevertheless Anastassiades said that based on the constitution, the legal, executive and judicial authorities of the Republic were obliged to ensure the effective implementation of the constitutional order of Cyprus, which was why a special law was necessary.

Anastassiades admitted he and President Tassos Papadopoulos disagreed over the bill. He said: “The President claims, and I completely respect his opinion, that we can in no way deprive the right of free disposal of property and we are saying that it is not a matter of free disposal, since it isn’t even free.”

The DISY chief added that if the bill was passed it would in no way affect the ECHR decision on the existence of the compensation commissions.

Anastassiades expressed the conviction that when discussed the proposal would have the best possible outcome because “we all want to avoid the resolute alienation of property from their owners and the irrevocable implementation of Ankara’s and the Turkish Cypriot leader’s plans for the creation of two separate states, which is what Mr Denktash is after”.

Legal Affairs Committee member and DISY deputy Ionas Nicholaou said the bill was not considered yesterday because “it (was) a special meeting based on a set daily programme and it was therefore not possible for any other bills to be submitted”."