Britain to protest after tourist complaints

BRITAIN is set to make a formal complaint to Cyprus over claims that tourists who have had items stolen from them are being treated as con- artists.

According to reports in yesterday’s British papers, the British government is angry after several tourists claimed they were bullied by Cypriot police into signing false confessions that they were trying to cheat on their insurance.

The problems began after a spate of false theft claims which culminated in the jailing of three Britons last week. The three were each jailed for a month after they claimed cameras and other possessions were taken from the beach.

According to British High Commission spokesman Piers Cazalet, “It’s understandable that the police and judges get impatient and frustrated because they don’t like to see the good name of Cyprus sullied… (and) because Cyprus generally has a low crime rate.

“However police aren’t always good at distinguishing between the few genuine cases they get and the many try-ons. We have had complaints on a number of occasions of heavy-handedness when they suspect people of putting in false insurance claims.”

The reports cited the case of an 18-year-old Belfast man who visited the island with his girlfriend, making his first trip abroad. They said that after his camera and wallet were stolen, he was interrogated for six hours, during which he was assaulted by police, while his girlfriend claims she was harassed and intimidated and finally coerced into signing a confession. The charges against them were later dropped after the intervention of a senior official.

In another case, a group of 18-year-old Manchester women, visiting the island to celebrate leaving school, had their apartment burgled. They complained they were treated so badly that they ended up in tears, and that police refused to file a report or give the women an incident number.

An investigation has, however, been promised by Minister of Commerce, Tourism and Industry Nicos Rolandis.

“We do not want to be unfair to any tourists,” Rolandis said. “If they have suffered once by having something stolen, they must not suffer twice.”