AG seeks to overturn Turkish Cypriot property ruling – Taramountas calls for caution over bringing refugee cases to court

ATTORNEY-General Solon Nikitas yesterday filed an appeal against the Supreme Court decision which reinstated a Turkish Cypriot man’s property – being held by a Greek Cypriot refugee – to him.

According to the current ruling, which has sparked a war of words, the current resident will have to vacate the property immediately. Arif Mustafa yesterday told the Cyprus Mail he was willing to take his case to Europe’s highest court, if the decision were overturned.

An appeal by Mustafa to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) could prove very awkward for the Cypriot government, with a victory providing a precedent similar to the landmark Titina Loizidou case.

In what appeared to be an about turn in policy European Democracy (ED) deputy Christodoulos Taramountas yesterday backed down on his call for refugees to use legal means to protect themselves.

Taramountas, who represented the Greek Cypriot family in the case, pointed out that Greek Cypriots had the option of seeking redress in a civil court for loss of income and loss of use of property.

He also noted that Turkish Cypriots or settlers illegally occupying Greek Cypriot properties in the north were committing a crime.

“A Turkish Cypriot or settler or foreigner who illegally occupies Greek Cypriot property in the occupied north is committing a crime. Any registered Greek Cypriot property owner can report this illegal occupier and if this Turkish Cypriot comes to the free areas, he should be arrested and charged accordingly,” he said.

But yesterday, when asked if he would do so himself, Taramountas, a Kyrenia refugee, said he would not choose that option.

“No, I would not choose that path,” he said.

He said in fact that such a move would complicate matters. “One should opt for these measures after a lot of thinking because… I see that we are led to very complicated issues”.

“If refugee wants to, I do not suggest they do it, but if they want to, it is within their legal rights,” Taramountas said.

The Supreme Court decision in favour of Turkish Cypriot Mustafa last Friday has sparked a bitter war of words among politicians but has also instilled fear among Greek Cypriot refugees living on Turkish Cypriot properties.

House president Demetris Christofias assured refugees yesterday that whatever the outcome of the issue, they would not be abandoned.

Christofias pointed out that there were many parameters to the issue and warned against hasty actions.

The House president also called on refugees not to become the victims of scaremongering that they would all become refugees for a second time.

That is beyond reality, Christofias said.

Interior Minister Andreas Christou who became the target of a vicious attack over his handling of the Mustafa case, repeated yesterday that the government’s policy was to deal with such cases without going to court.

“But it was a matter of time before one of the applicants, for their own reasons, would reach court,” Christou said.

Government spokesman Kypros Chrysostomides said it was clearly up to the Attorney-general to decide on whether to appeal as the government did not wish to interfere with matters within his jurisdiction.

Asked to comment on reports that Mustafa was ready to take Cyprus to the ECHR because the government would not allow him to sell 73 donums of land in Limassol belonging to his wife, the spokesman said the issue was being handled by the Interior Ministry.

Chrysostomides added that the government was taking all necessary measures and was ready to tackle all possible eventualities stemming from the case.

According to reports, hundreds of Turkish Cypriots were preparing to request their properties back and Turkish Cypriot lawyers have approached Greek Cypriot lawyers to handle the cases.