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Media Watch 2005

21 April 2005
Source: Cyprus Weekly
Author: Philippos Stylianou
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Weekly of Nicosia on 21 April 2005.
Court upholds property judgement against the Orams
"...European arrest warrants are for the first time coming in to play to prevent the arbitrary sale and development of Greek Cypriot property in the north without the consent of the rightful owners... Turkey, against which the claims were mainly filed, had at its disposal a huge legal, financial and public relations arsenal that called for coordinated action on the Greek Cypriot part... In her decision Judge Efraim demolished one by one all the defence arguments of the British couple, including one that the Greek Cypriot owner had voluntarily abandoned his property..."

THE fight to defend the property rights of Greek Cypriot refugees is raging on three fronts as a full-scale exploitation of usurped land and houses unfolds in the occupied areas.

In a significant development this week, the Nicosia District Court upheld a previous judgement ordering David and Linda Orams, a middle-aged British couple, to demolish a luxury villa they built on the land of a Greek Cypriot refugee from Lapithos and return the property to him.

The decision opens the way for its enforcement in Britain through EU legislation against the Orams’ UK property if they refuse to comply with the order of the Cyprus court.

In a new development, European arrest warrants are for the first time coming in to play to prevent the arbitrary sale and development of Greek Cypriot property in the north without the consent of the rightful owners.

A 62-year old refugee from Kazafani near Kyrenia and her husband have reported to the police a British real estate agent operating in the occupied areas for trespassing in their land. The Cyprus authorities are now in the process of asking for a European arrest warrant against Mark Unwin and his Turkish Cypriot-born wife Hayran, who appears as co-director of the company.

In an earlier development, private refugee applications at the European Court of Human Rights against Turkey, which had been frozen by efforts to refer them to the pseudostate’s "property compensation commission", are to go ahead following the Court’s judgement in the pilot case of Myra Aresti-Xenidou.

Xenidou’s Lawyer Achilleas Demetriades said he had received instructions from the ECHR to file additional observations by 8 June, as well as to present his client’s claim for just satisfaction.

He told The Cyprus Weekly the Court was proceeding to finalise the case but added he couldn’t say if it would wait until the outcome of the Xenidou case before taking up any of the other cases it had declared admissible.

There are as many as 33 such cases, while scores of others are waiting to have their admissibility decided by the ECHR.

Meanwhile, lawyer MP Christodoulos Taramountas has suggested all refugee property claims and applications should come under a single "coordinating and controlling agency" warning that the haphazard manner in which they are currently being pursued could be proved "dangerous".

Speaking to journalists in the House on Wednesday, Taramountas called on the Attorney General and the Legal Department to take the initiative and said he was conveying his views and concerns to him in a letter.

He explained that the various lawyers who represented refugees in their claims inevitably had their own "legal and political views, resulting in an unconcerted and hazardous mosaic."

He noted on the other hand that Turkey, against which the claims were mainly filed, had at its disposal a huge legal, financial and public relations arsenal that called for coordinated action on the Greek Cypriot part.

"We all know that mistakes have so far been made in handling such cases, which, to our good fortune, did not have the corresponding damaging effect on us, either because they were rectified in time by last minute interventions or simply because they passed unheeded," Taramountas said.

He particularly referred to the latest Myra Aresti-Xenidi case, saying that although the court judgement preserved all the precedents previously gained by Cyprus, the wording of the case gave rise to reasonable questions and concerns about the future.

Speaking to the Cyprus Weekly, Taramountas, who belongs to the Disy breakaway party Evrodi, said he had consulted with other lawyers before announcing his initiative.

ORAMS: NO CASE TO ARGUE

IN THE light of the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights upholding the property rights of Greek Cypriot refugees in the occupied areas, David and Linda Orams did not have a case to argue before a Cyprus court for building a luxury villa on land belonging to Menelaos Apostolides from Lapithos without his consent.

The ECHR rulings on the landmark cases of Titina Loizidou, Evgenia Michaelidou, Demades, Tymvios and Myra Aresti against Turkey were repeatedly quoted in the 67-page decision read out in the Nicosia District Court this week by judge Elena Efraim, while reference was also made to UN resolutions establishing state legality in Cyprus.

The middle-aged couple from Hove, Sussex, were not present in court to immediately hear that they still had to abide by a previous court order to demolish their ?160,000 villa, return the property to the rightful owner and pay him ?7,654 in damages, plus a monthly rent of ?294, counting from December 2004 until they complied.

Having failed to appear in the case against them last November, they later filed an application through their Turkish Cypriot lawyers asking for the court decision to be set aside, claiming they had a good case to argue before the court.

Immediately after this week’s judgement their lawyer Aziz Mentes said they would appeal agaisnt the decision at the Supreme Court within the time limit of 10 days. Failure of the appeal will open the way for the Cyprus court decision to have Apostolides’ property restored enforced in the UK against the Orams by the British High Court under EU legislation.

This is already having a gripping effect on the arbitrary sale of Greek Cypriot properties to Britons and other EU nationals in the occupied areas that has since the 24 April 2004 referenda been going on on a massive scale.

Greek Cypriot lawyer Constantis Kandounas appearing for M. Apostolides said, however, when asked about taking the enforcement case to the British court, that he had to wait and see what the Orams next move would be.

The defendants tried to avoid the consequences for David Orams on the grounds that, unlike his wife, he had not been served the summons to appear before the court in November 2004. But Judge Efraim made absolutely clear the court decision and orders were issued jointly and severally for both spouses. Linda Orams had falsely claimed her husband was away when the bailiff knocked on her door at Lapithos.

The fact that David Orams will not be getting away with his responsibilities was particularly welcomed by Meletios Apostolides himself, who attended this week’s hearing.

"I am satisfied, of course, particularly as Mr David Orams, who seems to have been spared this procedure, cannot escape the Court’s decision," he told the Cyprus Weekly outside the courtroom, and added:

"I believe that I have been vindicated and all the refugee people along with me. I consider that the case has already brought about results and there will be more of those when we go to the English courts."

According to Kandounas, if the case goes to the British High Court the decision whether to enforce it in the UK will be decided on whether the Orams had been given the chance to offer a defence in the Cypriot courts, and also if the enforcement does not run contrary to British public policy.

"I would be really sorry to lose on the latter grounds than on the former, since that would mean that the road to British justice will be closed to future cases," he said.

Kandounas noted that in his opinion the Nicosia District Court would have granted Orams their application if they had even a slight defence, which they didn’t.

In her summing up, judge Efraim hinted that the Court had shown excessive tolerance with the applicants by admitting their affidavit despite being submitted irregularly. She explained that Linda Oram’s application had been based on a sworn affidavit she submitted in Turkish and which included all the facts from their point of view.

However, as she admitted in court, she did not understand Turkish, nor was an English translation of the affidavit by a qualified translator duly deposited in Court, together with a sworn statement by the translator.

"The reasonable question arises as to how the Accused 2 sworn on the contents of the said affidavit without being in a position to understand what it said," Judge Efraim noted and added:

"Consequently, it emerges that this application by the Defendants is accompanied by an affidavit made by the Accused 2, who does not know Turkish and therefore was not in a position to know its contents and the facts which she submitted and was supposed to verify in Court. In fact, the situation is as if there is no affidavit before the Court and consequently no facts to support the application, contrary to the provisions of civil jurisprudence."

In her decision Judge Efraim demolished one by one all the defence arguments of the British couple, including one that the Greek Cypriot owner had voluntarily abandoned his property, which had been exchanged for Turkish Cypriot property in the south, according to the "Ten-Point Agreement."

Besides the fact that this agreement had never been implemented, Judge Efraim pointed out that subject to the cited judgements of ECHR, its contents could not offer the defence of voluntary exchange of property between the citizens of Cyprus and the leaderships of their communities.

A pending case for contempt of court filed against the Orams by Apostolides’ lawyer will be activated if the British couple fail to comply with the November 2004 decision of the court.

No reaction form the Orams

THE Cyprus Weekly tried to get a first reaction from the Orams on the Cyprus Court decision by ringing up their home in Hove, Sussex, on the same day.

The telephone was answered by a young female voice, who did not identify herself.

We said we were journalists from Cyprus calling for a comment from either Mrs Linda Orams or her husband.

The voice said they could not come to the phone because they were in the middle of preparing a press statement, and then she asked: "Which paper did you say you were calling from?"

"From the Cyprus Weekly," we said, whereupon the voice underwent a change in tone: "Oh, we do not want to speak to The Cyprus Weekly!"

"Why not?" We inquired.

"Because we are appalled at the politicisation of the issue," the female voice said.

We answered back that we had been reporting what was said in court, but the voice kept on about politicisation and we hung up.

So far no press statement is known to have been issued by the Orams."