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Media Watch 2005

18 December 2005
Source: Sunday Mail
Author: Jean Christou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Sunday Mail of Nicosia on 18 December 2005.
Cherie Blair steps into Cyprus land row


"CHERIE Blair, wife of the British Prime Minister, has plunged into the Cyprus quagmire, when it emerged yesterday that she was representing a British couple accused of illegally buying Greek Cypriot property in the north.

Tony Blair’s barrister wife is taking part in the defence of David and Linda Orams, who are appealing a Nicosia court decision ordering them to demolish the house they built on the property of Meletios Apostolides in Lapithos.

Under EU rules, the British High Court has registered the Nicosia judgment and the Orams have until Wednesday to appeal in the UK.

Speaking on his return from Brussels yesterday, President Tassos Papadopoulos said the Foreign Ministry had made strong representations to the British High Commission after hearing of Mrs Blair’s involvement in the Orams case.

Papadopoulos called the move “provocative”, saying it would stir the feelings of Greek Cypriots against Britain, as the case involved a human right violation.

“The Foreign Ministry has already made strong representations to the British High Commission,” Papadopoulos said. He said he had been told the decision was entirely that of Cherie Blair, whose professional career is conducted under her maiden name of Booth, and should not be given a political angle.

A brief statement by the British High Commission in Nicosia yesterday said: “Ms Cherie Booth QC is acting in a professional capacity. Any enquiries relating to her legal practice should be directed to her chambers, Matrix.”

Matrix confirmed to Reuters in London that it was working with a group of solicitors defending two Britons accused by a Greek Cypriot refugee of trespassing on his property in northern Cyprus.

“We are utterly astonished by the undertaking by Mrs Blair,” Government Spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said yesterday. “This will no doubt hurt the feelings of all Greek Cypriots, particularly those displaced whose properties are being robbed and exploited by the occupation regime. It is not a question of human rights of Mrs Orams but of the violation of human rights of the original owners of the property. This is not only a question of embarrassment for the British Prime Minister, but diplomatically, it’s very sensitive.”

Chrysostomides said Mrs Blair was undertaking to represent one of the many hundreds of Britons who are illegally trespassing, “giving the impression the official policy of the British government is to support illegality.”

He said the High Commission in Nicosia had tried to justify the situation. “But the justification is thin,” he added. Political parties on the island also condemned the move yesterday, but Costantinos Candounas, the lawyer representing Apostolides against the Orams couple, told the Sunday Mail he was unfazed by having to come up against Mrs Blair in a British court.

“Obviously she is very well respected and very competent and I look forward to the case. She will be a formidable opponent,” he said. Candounas said he did not believe the fact that the British Prime Minister’s wife was involved in the case would affect the judgment of the British court.

Turkish mainland newspaper Hurriyet reported yesterday that Cherie Blair had in May visited Istanbul, where she had meetings with the Orams’ Turkish Cypriot lawyers."