Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
Print this page Print Bookmark and Share
Media Watch 2005

19 December 2005
Source: Guardian
Author: Helena Smith
Comment: The following article appeared in the Guardian of London on 19 December 2005
Cherie Booth's role in Cyprus land dispute angers president

"The president of Cyprus, Tasson Papadopoulos, has condemned Cherie Booth for agreeing to defend a British couple in a land dispute that has become one of the most sensitive issues on the island. He said the prime minister's wife was behaving provocatively by agreeing to represent the pair in the high-profile case.

"It is difficult to separate her professional capacity from being the wife of the British prime minister," said Mr Papadopoulos, who is also a British-trained barrister. "We will take this issue up with Britain."

Downing Street insisted Ms Booth was acting purely in her professional capacity as a leading QC. The spat erupted after Ms Booth's chambers, Matrix, confirmed at the weekend that she would be heading the defence of David and Linda Orams, the couple ordered by a Greek Cypriot court last year to demolish their home in Turkish-run northern Cyprus.

In a move with possible repercussions for other UK citizens owning holiday retreats in the outlawed republic, Mr and Mrs Oram were also ordered to return the property to Meletis Apostolides, the Greek Cypriot refugee who owned the plot before war split the island in 1974.

Ms Booth's involvement became known after the test case was lodged by Mr Apostolides' lawyer with the high court in London. As a specialist in European human rights law, Ms Booth is believed to have been approached by the Orams' London-based Turkish Cypriot solicitor, Hassan Vahid.

Speaking from Nicosia, the refugee's solicitor said: "As the Greek Cypriot court's judgment cannot be enforced in northern Cyprus because of the island's division, we used EU regulations to have it registered and applied against the Orams' assets in the UK."

Mr and Mrs Oram, who were accused of trespassing on Mr Apostolides' property, have refused to comply with the Greek Cypriot ruling. If, however, the judgment is upheld by the high court, their home in Hove could be seized by the Greek Cypriot refugee. The couple have until Thursday to appeal.

An estimated 10,000 Europeans are thought to have invested in the enclave, a breakaway territory recognised only by Turkey. Most, like the Orams, are Britons attracted to the outlawed state by the bargain prices of properties often forcibly abandoned by Greek Cypriots in 1974.

But growing numbers of refugees - encouraged by Mr Apostolides' success and by Cyprus obtaining EU status - have vowed to press ahead with legal action.

Ms Booth's decision to take on the case was tantamount to condoning the Orams' "illegal trespassing," said Kypros Chrysostomides, the island's government spokesman, adding: "We are astonished by this undertaking. This is diplomatically very sensitive.""