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Apostolides lawyer said we will target tourists next

DOZENS OF tourists who stayed in the Dome Hotel in Kyrenia face being sued for trespass, after the building's Greek Cypriot owners decided to seek legal redress, Constantis Candounas, lawyer for Melitis Apostolides, said yesterday.

"It's just been decided that the owners of the Dome Hotel in Kyrenia will be suing tourists that have trespassed on the hotel. It's a very interesting case," Candounas told the Cyprus Mail last night.
"It brings a new dimension, as it will affect a completely different industry in the north," he said, referring to this week's landmark victory in the Orams case, which is expected to seriously destabilise the illicit market for Greek Cypriot properties in the north.
Candounas latest brief is likely to deal a heavy blow to the north's tourism industry, as it targets individual tourists who spent their holidays in the Greek Cypriot-owned Dome Hotel in Kyrenia, which now hosts a casino.

The latest step in the ongoing international legal battle over refugees property rights comes on the back of Tuesday's decision by the English Court of Appeal, which ruled that Britons Linda and David Orams must demolish the home they built on Apostolides land in Lapithos and return the property to him. They were also ordered to pay legal costs and back rent for use of property.

The decision was widely hailed by Greek Cypriot leaders as a vindication of the rights of refugees, while the government said it was following the same logic as the court in the negotiations on property. The ruling effectively opens the door for Greek Cypriot refugees to target the EU-based assets of foreigners who bought or used their properties in the north. Around 5,000 Britons have bought property in the north.

According to Candounas, his latest client has the details of 60 cases of tourists who stayed at the Dome Hotel. "They have their names, addresses, dates, and places where their documents can be served; the full works," he said.

The lawyer said he was "pretty confident" that his clients stood a chance following the positive ruling in the Apostolides case.

Asked whether there was a difference between living and holidaying on Greek Cypriot property, Candounas replied: "The Apostolides case was not about the house built or bought, it was about people occupying the land: trespassing. It would have made no difference if the Orams were renting the place we mind them being there."

He dismissed suggestions that serving summons to those believed to be trespassers would pose an obstacle to any such case.

"It will happen the usual way. You issue the summons, have it served, take it to the court in Cyprus and have it enforced in the country of origin. One doesn't have to be in Cyprus to be served. I have another case now where the defendants were served by the UK government," he said.

The case in question relates to a British couple who are accused of using Greek Cypriot property in the occupied village of Karmi. Candounas said he used an EU regulation, which allowed him to send the summons to the Justice Ministry in Cyprus, which then passed it on to the UK government, which in turn served the summons through the Court of Justice there.

"The summonses have already been served in England and we are waiting for the hearing to take place (today) in Cyprus," said Candounas, who noted that he was currently working on several similar cases.

The lawyer is expected to announce plans to sue tourists who visited the Dome hotel today at a press conference in Nicosia. The media event was due to take place at the Goethe Institute in the buffer zone but the location had to be changed last minute.

According to Candounas, Goethe pulled out less than 24-hours before the press conference was due, following an intervention from the German Embassy in Nicosia.

The institute reportedly told the lawyer that holding the press conference would harm relations between the Greek and Turkish communities of Cyprus.

Candounas claimed that he has held every press conference after a major ruling at the same place in the past four years and no such issue was ever raised.

"When we were losing, it was OK," he said. In a written statement, he suspected that "the motive behind these actions is to try not to annoy German nationals currently trespassing on Greek Cypriot land in the Turkish occupied northern part of Cyprus".

Meanwhile, the Greek Cypriot leadership continued to talk up the impact of the Orams ruling, with House President Marios Garoyian describing it as a "milestone".

Government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said it sends "very strong messages" on the property issue.
"First of all, the properties belong to their legal owners ... and second, since the properties belong to their owners, they have first say on what will happen to their properties."

Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat yesterday chaired a meeting at his offices to discuss the impact of the ruling and the next steps to follow.

As for the Orams, while on Tuesday they told the Mail they planned to execute the decision and knock down the house in Lapithos, they were quoted in Kibris yesterday saying they would do all they could to prevent the ruling's implementation.

By Stefanos Evripidou, CyprusMail. Published on January 21, 2010

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