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Orams must demolish villa and return land to Greek Cypriot refugee

BRITONS Linda and David Orams must demolish the home they built on Greek Cypriot refugee Melitis Apostolides land in Lapithos and return the property to him, the UK Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.

They were also ordered to pay legal costs and back rent to Apostolides by the court.

The ruling that backs the Nicosia court's 2004 decision, came after a five-year legal battle that saw the opposing sides and their lawyers arguing it out in Nicosia, Luxemburg and London.

"The Court of Appeal has decided in favour of Mr Apostolides. The present appeal is final. A further appeal to the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom is not permitted, " Apostolides lawyer Constantis Candounas said yesterday.

"This judgment has determined in a final way that the legal rights of displaced Cypriots against trespassers, as determined by the Courts of the Republic of Cyprus, can be enforced in the UK.

Candounas said the ruling was expected to act as a future deterrent for speculators in stolen Cypriot properties, as well as those willing to take small or bigger risks. Some 5,000 Britons have bought property in the north.

"The way is now open for all Greek Cypriots whose properties have been usurped by other EU nationals, to take legal action and enforce Cyprus judgments against such trespassers in the United Kingdom and other EU countries," Candounas said.

Apostolides said on behalf of his family that they felt strongly emotional.

"After an effort which has lasted for many years now, we find ourselves with a historic decision, a decision which has relevance to the decisions of the European Union and more widely to human rights. For this reason I feel it is a victory for everybody, for the entire Cypriot public," he added.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail shortly after the ruling was announced at midday, Linda Orams, who was not in court yesterday, said that while she and her husband were "deeply disappointed" by the ruling, they would do all they could to abide by it.

"We are in the dark, but we'll be coming back to Cyprus soon and see how we can abide by the ruling. If we don't make efforts to comply we'll be held in contempt of court," she said.

While the decision was obviously welcomed by the Greek Cypriot side, the Turkish Cypriot leadership however was furious.

"The British court will have to decide how to implement its ruling. We will not implement it, "Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat's spokesman Hasan Ercakica told the Mail, adding: "If Apostolides really wants his property back, he can apply to the property commission".

Ercakica said the Turkish Cypriot side would "take all necessary measures to protect the Oramses".

"They will not be left alone," he insisted. Having so far been aided by "an anonymous benefactor", it is widely believed the Oramses have received financial backing from the authorities in the north, and Turkey.

Despite the tangible bitterness caused by the ruling in the north, Ercakica said he did not expect it to have an overtly negative impact on ongoing negotiations.

"This is nothing new. We are under isolation, and this is just another example of that," he said.

Turkish Cypriot lawyer Emine Erk agreed that the outcome did not constitute a new state of affairs in the north.

"This should not be a surprise for Turkish Cypriots. When the Greek Cypriots joined the EU, to the exclusion of Turkish Cypriots, this was a risk many of us feared...that EU legislation would be used for claims that are inconsistent with the situation in the north," but added: "Everybody here needs to calculate their risks".

Asked if Apostolides would claim against the Orams assets in Britain, including their home there Candounas said: "We have to wait to see what the Orams reaction will be, how they want to go about it, whether they'll call Apostolides to hand the property [in northern Cyprus over], whether they will pay the damages, whether we will have to take legal action to enforce the judgment. It remains to be seen."

"Today's decision is clear: what happens practically is not significant ... The final ruling is the strongest we have ever had. IT speaks of Turkish invasion and occupation. We have never seen this in any other decision. Not even in UN resolutions," he said.

Background

IN 2004 Apostolides secured a ruling from the Nicosia ordering the Oramses to demolish the house they had built on his land, vacate the land and pay back rent. But, because the ruling was not enforceable in the north, the Orams ignored it, prompting Apostolides lawyers to take the case to the British High court in London in the hope that an EU law could be enacted, thereby enabling the Nicosia ruling to be enforced in the UK. The ultimate result would be that the court could order the confiscation of the Orams home in Sussex to pay compensation. However, rather than backing Nicosia, the UK's High Court said that because EU law remained suspended in the north, pending reunification of the island, it could not enact EU law there. The British court then turned to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in Luxemburg for clarification, which, after deliberation, said it saw no reason why EU law should not run in northern Cyprus. The ECJ's decision was delivered in April last year but only yesterday, having accepting the ECJ's advice, did the British court deliver its final verdict.

By Simon Bahceli, CyprusMail, Published on January 20, 2010

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