Lobby for Cyprus is a non-party-political human rights organisation campaigning for a reunited Cyprus.
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Media Watch 2005

22 January 2005
Source: Guardian
Author: Helena Smith
Comment: The following article appeared in the Guardian of London on 22 January 2005.
Britons fight to hold on to Cypriot home
"... title deeds to the properties remain with the nearly 200,000 Greeks who were forcibly displaced at that time. Last year, the European court of human rights issued a ruling establishing Greek Cypriots as the "only true and lawful owners" of the land. Inevitably, most British residents are apologists for the veteran Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, an unflinching opponent of reunification. "The fact is that Greek Cypriots never lost their legal title to their properties," government spokesman Kypros Chrysostimides told the Guardian. As the Orams had discovered, buyers "ran the risk" of being sued at any time. He added: "In the wake of Cypriot entry to the EU last year, they could expect to be hauled before UK courts for trespass, or conspiracy to commit trespass to such properties.""

A British couple yesterday continued their fight against a court order to demolish their home in northern Cyprus, in a case that could have repercussions for thousands of UK citizens with holiday and retirement homes in the outlawed republic.

The perils of purchasing property in the Turkish-controlled enclave were outlined as Judge Elena Evrem heard an appeal from Linda and David Orams, from Hove, East Sussex, who were ordered to destroy their villa and pay damages to the Greek Cypriot refugee whose land it now occupies.

Speaking through her solicitor in Nicosia's Greek-run district court, Mrs Orams, a former museum worker, denied the pair had bought the plot, or built the house, in bad faith.

Her lawyer, Mentesh Aziz, told the court that the sale of land once owned by Greek Cypriots in the breakaway territory had become "local custom" since the island's partition in 1974.

But there is little sign that Judge Evrem will rescind the order when the court reconvenes next month.

If the Orams refuse to carry out the instructions, Meletis Apostolidis, the Greek Cypriot architect who brought the case against them, has vowed to seek redress against the couple's assets in the UK.

The Orams, who retired to the self-declared republic three years ago, own a house in Hove.

"Any judgment of any European court is enforceable in another European Union country," said Constantine Candounas, lawyer for Mr Apostolidis. "It is in this spirit that I will register the judgment, as I do not expect the Orams to comply. It will be very difficult to enforce it given the presence of the Turkish army [in the north]."

Tens of thousands of Britons have rushed to snap up villas, retirement homes and plots of land in northern Cyprus. The scramble has seen British-owned "property clinics" surge in recent years. Lured by bargain prices, Britons are not only flying in to be escorted around sites, but increasingly are buying off-plan and over the internet.

While there were just 1,000 Britons living permanently in the republic two years ago, there are now more than 4,000 with the community opening a primary school to cater to new settlers.

But the Orams' plight highlights the implicit dangers involved.

James Ker-Lindsay, a political analyst in Nicosia, said: "If the judgment [against them] is eventually enforced in the UK, it could open the way for hundreds, if not thousands, of claims to be made against British citizens who own contentious properties in northern Cyprus."

Northern Cyprus was almost exclusively Greek before nationalists staged a coup aimed at uniting the island with Greece, prompting Turkey to invade in 1974.

Invariably, title deeds to the properties remain with the nearly 200,000 Greeks who were forcibly displaced at that time.

Last year, the European court of human rights issued a ruling establishing Greek Cypriots as the "only true and lawful owners" of the land.

Inevitably, most British residents are apologists for the veteran Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash, an unflinching opponent of reunification.

"The fact is that Greek Cypriots never lost their legal title to their properties," government spokesman Kypros Chrysostimides told the Guardian.

As the Orams had discovered, buyers "ran the risk" of being sued at any time. He added: "In the wake of Cypriot entry to the EU last year, they could expect to be hauled before UK courts for trespass, or conspiracy to commit trespass to such properties.""