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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-10-18

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

October 18, 1998


  • [01] Xiourouppas fighting for his life
  • [02] Markides advised ministers not to sack EAC board
  • [03] Markides visits immigrants
  • [04] The kindness of strangers runs dry
  • [05] Greek police hold Cypriot fraud suspect
  • [06] Two drown off Paphos
  • [07] Hospitals face strike chaos
  • [08] Turk arrested for illegal entry
  • [09] The ad that isn't

  • [01] Xiourouppas fighting for his life

    By Andrew Adamides

    ANDREAS Xiourouppas, shot by a hooded gunman in Larnaca on Friday, was still fighting for his life in intensive care yesterday, while police hinted that they may have evidence on the identity of his assailant.

    Aradippou councillor Xiourouppas, 54, was attacked at 7.50pm in the parking area of his block of flats in Larnaca. The gunman fired at Xiourouppas as he got out of his car, wounding him.

    The councillor managed to run 20 metres into the corridor leading from the parking area to the building, before collapsing and being shot a second time from close range.

    Police said between six and eight shots were fired, and two of these ricocheted into a taxi which had pulled up to collect a female neighbour of Xiourouppas.

    The unnamed woman saw the whole drama unfold from her balcony, and was taken to Larnaca General Hospital where she was treated for shock.

    Xiourouppas was rushed to the hospital, where he underwent several hours of emergency surgery. He is currently on a respirator in the hospital's intensive care ward and is under police guard.

    State Pathologist Panicos Stavrianos said Xiourouppas was hit by three bullets in the head and neck. Police also confirmed that the shots that hit Xiourouppas were fired in two separate bursts and that they had found the remains of between six and eight spent cartridges.

    Speaking at a lunchtime press conference yesterday, Larnaca Police Chief Savvas Lardis said that the gun used was a pistol, not fitted with a silencer; he confirmed that there was a single attacker.

    He said police were currently reviewing their evidence, some of which could not yet be revealed to the public, as well as eye-witness testimony. This, he said, could lead investigators in the right direction, as "certain parties" were already being questioned about the incident.

    Police are also investigating whether a name whispered by Xiourouppas just before he blacked out after the shooting was that of his attacker or just a random name.

    Investigations are under way to establish whether the case is linked to old gangland rivalries. Xiourouppas' son George, 28, is currently in custody in Limassol, suspected of involvement in a plot to murder two underworld figures.

    Xiourouppas himself was given a nine-month sentence for his part in the attempted murder of Charalambos Boutzouris, after he took a firearm into a Larnaca cabaret, although he later received a presidential pardon. His son received a three-month sentence in connection with the same incident.

    Xiourouppas senior was elected as a councillor on the Diko ticket at the last municipal elections. Due to his criminal record, Disy refused to support his bid to become deputy mayor.

    Aradippou council has condemned Friday's attack, and cancelled several celebratory events to be held yesterday and today as a mark of respect.

    October 18, 1998

    [02] Markides advised ministers not to sack EAC board

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE GOVERNMENT did not sack the Electricity Authority board over a botched land deal because the Supreme Court could have overturned the decision, Attorney-general Alecos Markides said yesterday.

    On Thursday, the cabinet chose not to sack the board, even though Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis had pushed for dismissal over the EAC's exorbitant £1.4 million land deal with the Limassol Bishopric - double the market value of the plot.

    Markides said yesterday he had advised the cabinet against firing the board, because he judged the Supreme Court would revoke the decision as it did last year when after six EAC board members were sacked over controversial tender procedures.

    The Supreme Court ruled in July 1997 that the Council of Ministers had no authority to axe the six board members.

    The Attorney-general said the board would have had every right to appeal against their dismissal to the Supreme Court, which set a precedent with last year's EAC ruling.

    However, Markides said he did not share the views of the Supreme Court over the powers of the cabinet to fire semi-government employees.

    Although the board may have every reason to feel vindicated - it has contested all along that it did nothing wrong - EAC chairman Costas Constantinides said the issue of resignation was still up for discussion.

    He said the board would consider resigning if it felt it did not have the full backing or trust of the government.

    A statement issued by cabinet on Thursday said the board had been careless in its handling of the controversial land deal, but stressed it could not legally sack the board.

    A Friday night board meeting rejected this view, and said it was unhappy that suspicions still remained.

    Constantinides said if the government believed the EAC board was negligent and worked against the public interest then it had legal grounds to sack them.

    October 18, 1998

    [03] Markides visits immigrants

    Staff reporters

    CLAIMS that around 30 immigrants rescued from a fishing trawler in June are being kept in inhuman conditions at Larnaca police holding cells were yesterday investigated at first-hand by Attorney-general Alecos Markides.

    Markides, accompanied by Akel deputy Doros Christodoulides and Larnaca police chief Savvas Lardis, made an unannounced inspection of the holding cells.

    The visit follows protests by the mainly black African boat people that they were crammed into small cells, making their detention intolerable.

    Before the Africans were moved there, the cells had been out of use, as they were part of the old headquarters of Famagusta police in Larnaca.

    It is understood the Attorney-general discussed with police whether there were any prospects for improving the conditions in which the boat people were kept.

    Until late August, the Africans - mainly single males - had been housed in less spartan surroundings at the Pefkos hotel in Limassol, along with fellow boat people rescued from the Ridallah.

    They are now awaiting deportation in Larnaca following the rejection of their asylum applications by the UNHCR.

    However, attempts to deport the Africans have so far failed because they do not possess valid travel documents and their true countries of origin are yet to be ascertained.

    Of the original 113 boat people, some 50 boat people still remain at the Pefkos under police guard. The rest have been deported.

    Earlier last week, Sunday Mail journalists seeking to talk to the refugees were denied access to the Larnaca holding cells.

    Denying entry on the order of Larnaca Police Chief Lardis, his deputy Demetris Georgiades told the Mail:

    "They have been making a lot of trouble. They sing and bang on their doors all night long and the whole area is disturbed."

    But Georgiades was keen to show that the police were doing their best under the circumstances.

    "We are giving them three hot meals a day and we are even paying from our own pockets to buy them necessary items."

    October 18, 1998

    [04] The kindness of strangers runs dry

    By Hamza Hendawi

    MITAN FERHAD Khilowm is a healthy baby boy born in Limassol 30 days ago. At present, the occasional bite or pinch from his jealous sister, 30-month-old toddler Noras, may be all he has to endure.

    Born to stateless Kurdish Syrian parents detained by authorities at Limassol's Pefkos Hotel since June, Mitan has Cypriot tax payers to thank for his free-of-charge September 18 birth and the Welfare Department to thank for his designer nappies, formula milk and the cuddly monkey squatting on his bed.

    Another infant enjoying the "kindness of strangers" is a short distance down the corridor from the Khilowms' room on the Pefkos' third floor.

    Six-week-old baby girl Fagaria is the other Pefkos infant. Her parents Farahat and Aisha al-Masri, and sister Leila come from northern Lebanon.

    The new addition to each family is not the only thing the Khilowms and el- Masris have in common. Suffering, present and past, is something the two families share.

    They experienced the horrors of being lost at sea for nine days under a scorching sun on a ramshackle wooden trawler with little food or water before their rescue by Cypriot authorities in late June.

    Part of a human cargo of some 115 men, women and children, they had set out from the northern Lebanese port of Tripoli en route to Greece or Italy in search of better and more secure lives than those they left behind them.

    In return for their passage on the Syrian-registered trawler, they had paid thousands of dollars to one of the dubious and heartless men now scattered around the world doing brisk business in shifting contraband human cargoes into the West.

    Their money gone, their dreams mercilessly shattered, the passengers of the ill-fated Ridallah - 'God's blessing' - are now in the unenviable position of being guests who overstayed their welcome in a place they did not want to come to in the first place.

    Their unexpected arrival on the island and their sheer number confronted authorities with something of a novel situation. In handling the refugees, Cyprus was initially at pains to appear before a scrutinising world as a democracy with abundant compassion for the less fortunate.

    Hospitality was in evidence from authorities and ordinary Cypriots alike. Dozens of parcels of clothes and toys poured in soon after the refugees arrived in the Pefkos, where their meals looked appetising and were duly appreciated. Medical care was also promptly available on request.

    Saved from a virtually certain death, fed and clothed, the refugees were filled with gratitude, and still are, but their longer-than-expected stay and the spiralling cost of their keep - said to be well over a million pounds - have slowly exposed Cyprus as a place less compassionate and caring than it wanted to appear, according to human rights activists and the refugees.

    Bit by bit, the hospitality began to give way to some cold-hearted behaviour and a touch of xenophobia, they say.

    In what appeared to be revenge for hurting several policemen during a riot staged to protest the deportation of some, police apparently took it upon themselves in late August to show the refugees the darker side of life on the island for unwanted aliens (see below).

    "We are treated like prisoners," Ferhad Khilowm, the Syrian Kurd, told the Sunday Mail.

    "I look out of the window in the evening and see people taking a walk and I think to myself 'why cannot I be allowed to enjoy a walk too?'," said Aisha al-Masri, who claims to have suffered during the birth of her daughter Fagaria due to insufficient exercise in the later stages of the pregnancy.

    "They would take me outside of the hotel to exercise but ask me to go back to my room a few minutes later," she remembered, tears filling her eyes.

    "I am so bored here," she told the Mail. Outside her room, a group of black African refugees were inexplicably engrossed watching a daytime telemarketing programme on CyBC 2.

    Eleni Mavrou, a human rights activist, says she and others have written repeatedly to the Education Ministry and Immigration Department requesting permission to take the Pefkos children out once or twice a week on day trips to the local zoo or a nearby nursery.

    "We had received no response at all," she told the Mail.

    When told of the request, Limassol Diko deputy Marios Matsakis said he was surprised at the authorities' silence and said he would look into it.

    "I am saddened to hear about this. There is no logic in it," he told the Mail.

    Mavrou, a founding member of a voluntary group concerned with the rights and welfare of foreigners in Cyprus, said she and others had repeatedly been refused permission to visit the refugees, although they had been able to communicate with them by telephone and fulfil some of their needs.

    Pointing out that the refugees have technically broken no immigration laws, since it was the authorities that brought them to the island from out at sea, Mavrou said that in the short life of her group she had found that the Immigration Department had far too much power and that other government agencies were often reluctant to interfere with its work.

    "They can deport anyone within 24 hours and can delay for as long as they want applications for citizenship under the pretext of investigations," she said. The drafting of a new law curtailing the powers enjoyed by the department, such as detaining illegal immigrants without a court order, have been shelved, she said. Attorney-general Alecos Markides, she added, was of the view that any change now was unnecessary since Cyprus would in any case be obliged to harmonise its immigration laws with those in the European Union as part of the accession process.

    Prodromos Prodromou, a Disy deputy who sits on the Human Rights Committee, said the powers of the Immigration department had progressively increased in the years following the 1974 Turkish invasion, when issues relating to foreigners and citizenship became extremely sensitive.

    "There is an obvious need for reform in this area now," Prodromou told the Mail.

    Mavrou is convinced that institutionalised racism exists within the police, but that while Cypriots in general are xenophobic, active racism has not been manifested yet. "Cypriots are neutral and insular. They don't like foreigners mixing with them, but they will leave them alone unless they are threatened by them. I really think that the trend is reversible. Attacks on foreigners have happened, but it is not a phenomenon yet," she said.

    "We used to have this way of thinking that we are a small island with a small population and we can be threatened by I don't know what," said Prodromou. "Things are changing now and the Police Academy is teaching young officers to be sensitive and sensible when dealing with foreigners."

    Matsakis confesses to the existence of xenophobia among some Cypriots but insists that any shortcomings in the handling of the refugees might have resulted from the novelty of the situation.

    "We are not used to dealing with this type of problem and I must say that we are learning from the experience," said Matsakis, also a member of the House's Human Rights Committee.

    The former state pathologist maintains that Cyprus is in a precarious position. "We are a small island and our geographical location near Africa and Asia makes our life difficult."

    Nicosia Prison Director George Anastassiades told the Mail that about a third of the 230 inmates in his care are normally jailed for immigration offences, although this was not the case at the moment.

    "Millions are trying to leave and there could well be a cataclysmic flood of illegal immigrants on our shores," warned Matsakis, saying that the mass movement of people from poor to rich countries was likely to be the next century's most pressing problem.

    'We expected this country to be different from our own'

    "I HAVE never heard of a country whose police beat up refugees," lamented Nihad Hadji, a 22-year-old Kurd from the Iraqi Kurdistan town of Zakho.

    Hadji is among the men on the fourth and fifth floors of the Pefkos Hotel who allege that they were brutally beaten up in their rooms by black-clad members of the police rapid-reaction unit, MMAD.

    "We expected this country to be different from our own," said Idrees Mohammed, 30, also from Zakho.

    "I was beaten up and my shoulder was hurt badly," said Ibrahim, a Libyan who wanted to be identified only by his first name. "They refused to take me to hospital."

    "Two months after the beating, the police here still threaten us with the commandos. 'Do this or don't do that otherwise we shall bring back the commandos,' they tell us," said Mirhad al-Bareem, a Kurd from the Iraqi oil city of Mosul, who said that he had received eye and shoulder injuries from the beating.

    The alleged beatings happened after a series of protests by the refugees to stop police from deporting some of them. Several policemen were hurt in the disturbances, but police were eventually able to transfer about 30 refugees to Larnaca, where they are kept in poor conditions awaiting deportation following the rejection of their asylum application by the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR.

    The refugees said that the police officer in charge at the Pefkos, whom they identified as uniformed inspector Panayiotis Antoniou, was present when the beatings took place and has accompanied some of the MMAD officers as they moved from one room to another beating up male refugees.

    Antoniou, they said, did not take part in the beatings.

    Richard Henry, a Liberian, said two refugees - Lenos Magnos from Burundi and Emmanuel Peter from Liberia - were badly hurt but were not taken to hospital for several hours. Ibrahim, the Libyan, was denied hospital treatment although his injuries were also serious, Henry said.

    Other victims of the alleged beatings did not receive medical care for three days and, in some cases, for as long as a week.

    Journalists have been denied permission to see the Pefkos refugees from the time of the beatings on August 20.

    Police spokesmen denied at the time that the beatings had even taken place, but human rights activist Eleni Mavrou said the Attorney-general's office, after receiving presentations about the incident, said the police were conducting their own investigation into the allegations.

    "There will be a cover-up, as it is always the case," said Mavrou.

    Members of the House Human Rights Committee Marios Matsakis and Prodromos Prodromou said they had not followed up the matter, but said the incident would be discussed when the committee met at the end of the month.

    "I was under the impression that the whole matter (of the refugees) was coming to an end and that arrangements were being made to send the refugees back to their countries," said Matsakis.

    October 18, 1998

    [05] Greek police hold Cypriot fraud suspect

    POLICE in Greece have arrested a 50-year-old Cypriot man accused of netted millions of illicit drachmas on a four-year scam spree.

    Kyriakos Taliadoros, who was arrested in Athens on Friday, counted prominent Greeks - including businessmen, university lecturers, doctors and the Mayor of Piraeus - among his victims.

    Posing as a respectable Cypriot known to his victim, Taliadoros would phone claiming to have been arrested on his arrival in Greece after having been convicted in absentia of causing a traffic accident.

    He would then tell his victims he did not have enough money with him to pay the required fine, and would ask to borrow sums ranging from 200,000 Drachma to 1.1 million drachma (CY£350 to £1,900).

    Among the aliases he used were doctors, lawyers and, on one occasion, the Mayor of Limassol. When approached by Taliadoros, the Mayor of Piraeus is said to have lent him 750,000 drachma (£1,300).

    Taliadoros is suspected of having conned at least 15 people. He now faces at least eight counts of obtaining money under false pretences.

    Taliadoros claims he is a heavy gambler, and needed the cash to finance his habit.

    October 18, 1998

    [06] Two drown off Paphos

    TWO MEN, thought to be German tourists, drowned yesterday in seas off Kato Paphos.

    Police said the two, one aged around 65 and the other around 35, drowned in unknown circumstances at around 4.30pm. The incident occurred at the beach in front of the Venus Beach Hotel.

    Two German passports have been found believed to belong to the victims, but police said this had not yet been confirmed, and no names were released. Police nevertheless said they were "90 per cent sure" the two victims were German tourists.

    Investigations are continuing.

    October 18, 1998

    [07] Hospitals face strike chaos

    HOSPITALS are facing chaos after state doctors voted in favour of strike action to press their demands for better conditions.

    On Friday, 99 per cent of doctors belonging to the Pancyprian State Doctors Union voted in favour of strike action.

    Three hundred and fifty-five out of 360 union members voted for strike action, which promises to wreak havoc in a health service employing a total of 470 doctors.

    However, union officials say the government will be given time to enter into talks about the various problems in the sector before any action is finalised.

    Doctors are seeking agreement over how better to improve the health service and on a dispute concerning the way overtime pay is calculated.

    October 18, 1998

    [08] Turk arrested for illegal entry

    A 26-YEAR-OLD Turkish national was arrested yesterday for illegal entry into Cyprus after he was found wandering on the old Oroklini to Troulli Road.

    Suleyman Sonmez was apprehended by police at around 11am after a tip-off. He was found to be in possession of a travel document bearing a stamp from the occupied areas confirming that he had entered Cyprus through the port of Kyrenia on September 27.

    He was charged with entering the Republic through a closed port and held in police custody. Sonmez is expected to appear at Larnaca District Court to be remanded today.

    October 18, 1998

    [09] The ad that isn't

    By Anthony O. Miller

    IT'S AS plain as a Japanese rock garden, and very Zen. It's the ad that isn't. And it's pushing a product that is.

    For at least three weeks now, it's been showing up in Cyprus newspapers and magazines in English and Greek.

    It shows a giant, US-style, 18-wheel tractor-trailer with the word 'Water' on the stainless-steel trailer's back end.

    Above the truck, it declares: "A Cypriot family can save 110,000 litres of water every year," and adds in a right-hand column: "It is the responsibility of everyone on this island to help improve the quality of life by using water economically."

    In the ad's lower left is a sketch of Planet Earth being brushed by a raindrop, and the words: "Please help save water."

    In contrast to Benetton ads with their in-your-face images of atomic-bomb tests or blood-stained Sarajevo sidewalks, the ad offers the pictorial equivalent of the sound of one hand clapping: four sexless photos of shiny chrome spigots and a toilet-flushing device are its only other images.

    To the lower right, above the words, "Water Technology," is the single word, "Grohe," the name of the German manufacturer of the spigots in the photos. Nothing more.

    No phone number. No address. The advertisement leaves it to the reader to find the answers to the questions it spawns, such as: "Is this a joke? What's this all about, anyway? Grohe, who? What number do I call to even find out?"

    "It's not an accident," laughed Doros Theodorou, managing director of Nicos Theodorou &amp; Sons Ltd, the Cyprus agent for Grohe products. In fact, that's the trick. And it's paid off. The ad's very starkness has sparked a flurry of interest in the products in the photos, he smiles.

    And that's not all, he said in an interview with the Sunday Mail this week.

    Besides subtly pitching Grohe products, the ad is also a wake-up call to Cypriots about the grave state of the island's water resources, and what they can do about it.

    "This water-saving campaign" has been under discussion among himself and his business associates "for the last two years," Theodorou said, without for a moment disclaiming its profit potential. He is, after all, in business.

    Sporting a walrus mustache, jeans and a sport shirt with a Walt Disney character on its pocket, Theodorou, a stocky man, is the picture of casual contentment at the head of a long conference table in the Nicosia offices of Telia &amp; Pavla/BBDO.

    Mild-spoken and confident, he is obviously pleased at the interest his ad has sparked. Telia &amp; Pavla, his advertising agency, is, too.

    At first, he admits, he was not comfortable with the ad's obliqueness. Its subtlety, the lack of phone numbers and addresses bothered him. After all, to purchase something, people need a fixed address where they can actually buy it!

    But "something clicked" at the end of two years of volleying water-saving ideas back and forth with colleagues, Theodorou said. So he put the plan to Telia &amp; Pavla/BBDO, and the Cyprus arm of New York-based BBDO, a world- flung advertising agency, went to work professionally packaging it.

    The German plumbing company made the task easy. It is already a world leader its field. Its water-saving fixtures hold top industry awards for excellence, the kind that is synonymous with "Made in Germany."

    Additionally, German-based Grohe is at the heart of the European Union, where environmental consciousness - Germany's Green Party came of age in the recent elections - is as much a part of business as the bottom line.

    Grohe's German precision was contagious, and soon Telia &amp; Pavla/BDDO were consulting the Nicosia Water Board, checking their data against the city's to show how much water people wasted with conventional sink and shower spigots and toilets.

    The plan was to plaster this data on a huge, stainless-steel tractor- trailers - like the one in the ad. The figures would show that Grohe plumbing fixtures could save Cyprus homes each year three times the 35,000 litres of water comprising a single tanker-truck load - the 110,000 litres of water in the ad.

    But the only companies on the island with such monster trucks were petrol companies. And in return for their use, they wanted their oil company logos in huge letters on the stainless-steel trailer beside the word 'water'.

    With oil and water not mixing in nature, Telia &amp; Pavla decided not to force the issue. They shelved the truck plan and put the figures in a pie- chart. It was time for Plan B.

    Here Theodorou offered £1,000 to several government water-related agencies for use in public-awareness campaigns. Again, it was "no sale." He could not find any bureaucrats willing to modify their revenue/payment procedures to permit accepting anything but tax money. Plan B was also shelved.

    So was Plan C, which never really left the drawing boards. This called for working with the various water boards to mail out with residents' water bills, brochures alerting people to the island's water crisis, and urging water conservation.

    It was beginning to seem like the ad that wasn't was all there was going to be. But it had begun producing feedback, Theodorou said, laughing at how it even spooked one private consultant, who was studying water-related issues on contract with the Larnaca municipality.

    The consultant was trying to find out why Larnaca's sewage system was not moving waste matter more efficiently. He ultimately concluded that the sewage system needed more water to flush the waste through the pipes, Theodorou recalled.

    But within 24 hours of the ad's first appearance in local newspapers, Theodorou said, the consultant phoned to say he was embarrassed to ask Larnaca to pay him for suggesting that, in the middle of a drought, the "cure" for Larnaca's sewage problems was... to use even more water.

    Other people have kiddingly accused Theodorou of "cheating" with his data- free advert, he chuckled. "They say: 'You don't put an advert, you don't put a telephone number, you don't put a product. You just put, Grohe there.'"

    But his ad is drawing customers to the dealers who buy Grohe fixtures through him, Theodorou said, adding that "only two" plumbing shops in Cyprus did not sell the Grohe brand.

    Theodorou says he wants people to know that, according to his calculations, their current toilets use 81,200 litres of water per year, where Grohe fixtures can save 60 per cent of this. Likewise, its water-mixing spigots can save 50 per cent of the 84,100 litres of water that an average Cyprus home uses in showers, baths and basins each year. And this does not include the 37,700 litres of water used to wash dishes - again 50 per cent more than is really needed.

    With last year's rains only 75 per cent of normal, Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous expects the reservoirs - now 93 per cent empty - to dry up by the end of this year. The groundwater, source of 80 per cent of Cyprus' water, is dangerously over-pumped. Some aquifers are bone dry. Others are too salty from seawater seepage for use.

    Nicosia alone consumes the total output of the island's sole desalination plant; a second plant is fettered in red-tape; and in panic, the government is trying to purchase "mobile" desalination plants to get the island through next summer.

    Panayiotis Theodoulides, technical manager of the Nicosia Water Board, said on Thursday he endorsed Theodorou's efforts to get out the word that water is precious and must be saved.

    "We do not endorse a particular brand," Theodoulides said, because "there are many brands like Grohe. (But) the Water Board of Nicosia is encouraging all efforts to save water. We do encourage, in general, the use of water- saving fixtures."

    The Board, he said, is drawing up a proposal with the Cyprus Water Development Department for the House of Representatives to require water- saving fixtures in homes throughout Cyprus.

    "We hope that next year this will become law" as in the United States and Europe, Theodoulides said.

    Meanwhile, on tap are more of the Grohe, "less-is-more" ads. More or less.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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