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Media Watch 2006

08 September 2006
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Menelaos Hadjicostis
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 8 September 2006.
Round one to the Orams
"[Turkish Cypriot newspaper] Afrika was more circumspect. "Plunder and do not be afraid," the daily said, calling the high court ruling "good news for everyone who plunders Greek Cypriot properties…"

"Apostolides’ lawyer, however, confident appeal will be successful

Cherie Blair may be the guest of honour at the Orams’s poolside party in Lapithos, but the Greek Cypriot owner warns the celebrations will be short-lived.

The lawyer for Meletios Apostolides said he’s confident a London High Court decision allowing Linda and David Orams to keep their villa on his client’s property would be overturned on appeal, despite the British prime minister’s wife on their side.

"What we have here is no vindication of the Orams’s. It’s not as if the court said the Orams are in the clear, they have done nothing wrong and they can go on enjoying the property," lawyer Constantinos Candounas told a news conference.

Judge Rupert Jack ruled that a November 2004 order by a Nicosia court to demolish the Orams’ home and pay compensation to Apostolides was unenforceable in Britain.

The Orams risked having to sell their home in Hove to pay Apostolides damages.

But Candounas said the ruling confirmed the Orams broke the law when they build on land that isn’t theirs and the couple’s exhortations of "total vindication" are premature.

"On the contrary, it has been stated that there is trespass and the only reason the (Nicosia court) judgement cannot be enforced in the UK is because of a technical, legal point."

"What we have been told is yes, if you go ahead and take Greek Cypriot property in the north be aware it is illegal, it is trespass, but we find there is nothing we can do.

"To that I would add there’s nothing we can do at the moment because we are appealing and we are very hopeful that this first judgment will be overturned."

Cantounas said the ruling is neither relief to thousands of British property owners in the occupied north, nor does it sound the charge for foreigners to buy up Greek Cypriot property there.

"Someone would be ill-advised to consider that this first judgment basically opens the way for them to come and get property that really belongs to Greek Cypriots."

‘Disappointed’

Candounas conceded he was "disappointed" with the outcome of a case seen a bellwether for other pending lawsuits against foreign nationals who build on Greek Cypriot land.

Expectedly, the mood in the occupied north was jubilant.

"The Orams won" and "British slap to the Greek Cypriots", trumpeted Turkish Cypriot dailies Kibris and Vatan respectively.

Daily Halkin Sesi wrote the ruling was "an important step" to "lifting the isolation of the (Turkish Cypriot) people".

Turkish Cypriot Contractors Union boss Cafer Gurcafer said the decision would be boon to the north’s economy.

Independent Afrika was more circumspect.

"Plunder and do not be afraid," the daily said, calling the high court ruling "good news for everyone who plunders Greek Cypriot properties in northern Cyprus".

Hasan Ercakica, spokesman for Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat, stuck to the illegal regime’s line that individual legal proceedings are no substitute for a comprehensive Cyprus settlement and suggested more court cases could further sour relations between the two communities.

"…it is a new indication of the fact that the property issue…cannot be solved by individual efforts independent of the principles of the Cyprus issue or by forcing some legal proceedings," Ercakica said in a statement.

Not over

The government rejected the north’s triumphalism, saying this case is far from over.

"The European Court of Justice will have the final say," Government Spokesman Christodoulos Pashardis told reporters.

"The British court decision in no way sanctions the illegal purchase and possession of Greek Cypriot property in the occupied areas," said Pashardis.

The spokesman said Cypriot citizens have every right to launch legal action to reclaim their stolen property and rubbished Ercakica’s argument that individual lawsuits would harm Cyprus settlement efforts.

"Solution prospects aren’t affected by the exercising of individual rights. They are affected only by a lack of good will and political will. This lack of will does not weigh on our side."

Candounas said Turkish Cypriot euphoria is unmerited because a closer look at the high court ruling underscored that the Orams’s dream home is built on legal quicksand.

"According to the British court, the land belongs to Mr Apostolides and these people are trespassers…We have won on practically every single argument put forward by the extensive Orams legal team that has to do with the legality of enforcing this judgment," said Candounas.

Among Blair’s arguments the judge shot down was that enforcement of the Nicosia court decision would be contrary to English public policy.

Protocol 10

Candounas said what swung the case in favour of the Orams was Judge Jack’s own interpretation of a protocol ensconced within the island’s EU accession treaty.

Protocol 10 suspended the application of European law in the north because it was beyond the control of the Cyprus government.

The protocol intended to keep the government from being found in breach of EU law because of actions occurring in the north.

But Judge Jack reasoned that since EU law doesn’t apply in the north, any unlawful activity there cannot be suppressed by any other EU court – hence, British courts are without jurisdiction to enforce the Nicosia ruling.

Candounas refuted the judge’s argument.

"We think that the reasoning of the judgment is fundamentally flawed. We have already applied for leave to appeal, and we were immediately given leave, in spite of the fact that Miss Booth strongly objected," said Candounas.

Attorney General Petros Clerides weighed in with his opinion, saying that the Protocol should have been interpreted to mean that non-application of EU in the north doesn’t ‘strip’ any EU court of jurisdiction of enforcing rulings on matters that occur there.

Clerides said once the case reaches the European Court of Justice, the Republic of Cyprus would offer is view on the Protocol’s correct interpretation.

Candounas said he’s already compiling the paperwork to get a favourable ruling in the appeal’s court.

"What one has to remember, is that there are 24 hours in a day, this is a three-stage process and this was a first-instance court," said Candounas.

"So I don’t think this first judgment is anything to go by…We feel very confident about the result.""