Man charged for a grave plot he will not use

A Larnaca man who is refusing to pay his village cemetery levy because he will not be buried there has been taken to court by his local authority, which said it was simply enforcing the law.

Andreas Gregoriades, 71, is challenging the law and vowed to fight the Oroklini council, which initially lost the case in court over a technicality.

Gregoriades said he has a family plot in a cemetery outside the village boundaries and that is where he was going to be buried.

But the law only makes an exception if the resident already owns a plot within the boundaries of the community or if they are of different faith and will be buried elsewhere.

It all started in 2010 when Gregoriades objected to the annual €80 cemetery levy imposed by the Oroklini council. (It was later lowered because he is a pensioner).

The council was within its rights to impose the charges, as stipulated by the 2004 law on cemeteries, which Gregoriades argues is wrong.

“It is not about the money, it is a matter of principle,” he said.

In a letter to the district administration, he said he already had a family plot at the Larnaca cemetery (Ayios Georgios), which was located 10 kilometres from his home.

“I do not belong to any religious grouping and my wife is not (Greek) Orthodox,” he said.

Gregoriades also questioned the way the amount was calculated since the council did not have his financial information.

The law states that the amount should be shared among residents “according to their financial ability”.

The head of the council, Chrysostomos Parpounas, said they were simply enforcing the law and they had no problem with it being amended.

He could not say whether they planned on taking Gregoriades to court again.

The council lost the previous case, filed in 2014, after prosecutors failed to use the correct article of the law on the charge sheet.

In its October 2015 decision, the Larnaca district court said it was not right or fair for it to amend the charge sheet.

“Something like this would negatively affect the defendant’s rights because, as a result, he would be facing a totally different charge sheet.”

Gregoriades, who represented himself in court, had insisted all along that he had not committed any offence based on the charges that were filed.

Meanwhile, he has received this year’s levy, which he does not plan to pay.

It is around €65 because he is a pensioner, the only distinction the council makes, according to Parpounas, despite the law saying that the household’s financial ability must be taken into account.

The levy was first imposed in 2010 after the previous council took out a €1.4mln loan to buy the land for the cemetery. Residents, around 6,000, will be paying until 2035.

Panayiotis Damianou, the executive secretary of the Union of Communities agreed that Gregoriades was right but stressed that the council had acted correctly.

He added that the law did not include any provisions dealing with the specific matter.

“The law does not say clearly what happens if a person has a grave elsewhere,” he said. “The law must specify this.”

Damianou said they needed to consult with the interior ministry and prepare an amendment when parliament reopens after May’s elections.

He said he would recommend to Oroklini not to pursue a court case against Gregoriades until the matter was cleared.

Gregoriades has vowed to take the issue as far as Europe if he was forced, to protect his rights.

“Recognising a mistake is not something insulting; on the contrary, dispensing justice on matters of principle strengthens the person who recognises the mistake,” Gregoriades said in a letter to the Oroklini council.