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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-01-31

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

January 31, 1999


  • [01] U.N.FAIR: sacked social worker was 'terrorised'
  • [02] Government distances itself from spying climbdown
  • [03] Round two of voting expected to bring Athanasios closer to bishopric
  • [04] Hunting laws to be tightened
  • [05] Marina mania
  • [06] Fanieros club raided for gambling
  • [07] Mercedes torched
  • [08] Limassol follows Nicosia lead on litter fines
  • [09] Hotel workers strike over redundancies

  • [01] U.N.FAIR: sacked social worker was 'terrorised'

    By Jean Christou

    THE UNITED Nations Force in Cyprus (Unficyp) has terminated the ten-year employ of a British woman who complained she had been terrorised by a pistol-wielding Irish peacekeeper, who has since been sent home for stealing empty beer kegs.

    Sarah Sharpe, 31, was told in December that she was losing her job as Social Sciences Assistant at the Civil Affairs Department, formerly the Humanitarian Branch, which was restructured on the orders of new Chief of Mission Dame Ann Hercus.

    Sharpe, a locally-employed worker who speaks fluent Greek, was given the option of competing for another post, but says she was turned down for every job she applied for - even lower grade positions.

    "Each one I applied for I was told I was unsuitable," she said.

    For the past ten years, Sharpe had acted as a UN go-between for the Greek Cypriot enclaved in the occupied areas and the Turkish Cypriots still living in the south.

    She thinks she was initially given notice because of differences with her British boss.

    But the reason she was not rehired within the force, she believes, was because she subsequently reported an Irish sergeant for pulling a gun on her in her own home. She also suspects him of having stolen things from her house, where he used to drop by uninvited.

    According to Sharpe, on the night of January 7, Sergeant Eddie Hennessy waved a gun in her face at her Ayios Dhometios home in Nicosia, where she lives alone.

    He suspected her of gossiping about his alleged involvement in a lucrative scam said to involve Irish peacekeepers selling duty free alcohol outside the UN, Sharpe said.

    Hennessy, who is in his thirties, worked behind the bar at UN headquarters at Nicosia Airport.

    "Things started coming out," Sharpe said. "He started opening up after having drunk a lot in the bar and he started coming out with things about duty free. It started to become apparent that maybe this guy was actually involved in this. As soon as he started saying things like this I decided to pull away."

    A number of Irish peacekeepers have already been sent home for their suspected involvement in the duty free scam.

    After the `confession', Hennessy went on Christmas leave and Sharpe did not hear from him.

    "Three weeks later, the phone rang. It was this guy and he kept saying `hello, hello' as if he couldn't hear me and this continued all evening," Sharpe said.

    The next day, he called again and asked her if he could come round to her house.

    "When I opened the door to let him in I could see he didn't seem to be in a very friendly mood. He started saying he'd heard I'd spoken to people about him selling duty free."

    Sharpe said she denied it, but Hennessy became "very nasty". He then asked to use the bathroom.

    "When he came back, I noticed a bulge in his jumper," she said. "My immediate thought was `gosh this guy's stolen something from me'. I asked him what he had under his jumper and he said `nothing'. I asked him again, at which point he produced a gun."

    Sharpe said Hennessy was standing directly in front of her and that she just froze, thinking it was a sick joke. She asked him if the gun was real, and he said it was.

    "My thoughts were `stay calm, don't do anything to upset him, get him out of the house, lock the door and call the police.'

    "It sounds funny now, but at the time I just sort of said `look, if you're going to do something, do it, whatever you came here to do because I really have to get ready to go out.'

    "I was in such shock. It was like, `if you're going to kill me do it now because I have to go out'."

    She said Hennessy then just "said something nasty" and walked out; she ran to lock the door, sat down and burst into tears.

    Sharpe called a close friend and went to report the incident to UN police, spending the whole of the next day giving statements.

    She said she was assured by the UN there was no need to report anything to Cyprus police, but was later told by contacts in the local force that she should have done exactly that.

    For the next week, Sharpe said she lived in terror as UN investigators failed to find the gun, despite bringing sniffer dogs from Akrotiri. The dogs did indicate there had been a weapon in the boot of his car, but Hennessy was not taken into custody.

    She said she wrote a letter to the head of UN military police on January 15 asking for protection.

    "They couldn't charge him with anything until they found the gun so he was still a free man," she said.

    On January 18, a UN letter to Sharpe said there was little they could do "of a practical nature" about her security, but that Hennessy would be leaving the island "very soon".

    "I didn't sleep. Every night I'd sit there drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes and thinking any noise outside might be him."

    Hennessy was indeed shipped home shortly afterwards and his files have been passed on to the Irish military, who will deal with the case.

    UN spokesperson Sarah Russell said Hennessy's return home had nothing to do either with the alleged gun incident or the theft allegations, or the duty-free scam. Russell said he had been sent home for medical reasons; no evidence had been found against him in relation to Sharpe's allegations, though there were suspicions of petty theft.

    UN sources told The Sunday Mail that Hennessy had in fact been sent home on disciplinary charges for stealing empty beer kegs on which he was claiming deposits and pocketing the cash.

    "The guy is no longer here," one source said. "He was sent home for `depression'."

    But Sharpe is now out of a job since Friday, and has not even received an apology from the UN for what she has been through.

    "It was the opposite. It was like `oh look here's trouble'," she said. "They (the UN) don't like it if you stand up for yourself and it causes a big stir. Everyone is terrified of losing their job because they've seen what happens to people like me. See how easy it is? Someone clicks their fingers and you're out."

    Sharpe will now appeal against her dismissal to UN headquarters in New York in accordance with procedure. If that fails, she will apply for compensation from the UN. She may even consider legal action, she said.

    "It was very stressful and really unfair. I'm out of a job. It's all been such a shock."

    January 31, 1999

    [02] Government distances itself from spying climbdown

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE GOVERNMENT yesterday sought to distance itself from Attorney-general Alecos Markides's decision to drop spying charges against two Israeli nationals.

    Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said the government would not accept responsibility for Friday's controversial decision - which could mean that suspects Udi Hargov, 37, and Igal Damary, 49, walk free tomorrow.

    The Attorney-general's office made its decisions independently of the government, and Markides had accepted full responsibility for the decision to water down the charges against the two suspects, the CyBC quoted Cassoulides as saying.

    The decision only to charge Hargov and Damary with possession of illegal listening devices and approaching a prohibited area - charges to which they pleaded guilty - caused a storm of protest from opposition parties. Akel and Diko both claimed the government had bowed to pressure from the Israeli government to release the two spying suspects.

    The Israelis, arrested at a holiday flat in the Zygi area on November 7 last year, were originally charged with spying against Cyprus and its military facilities.

    Markides yesterday again denied the decision to drop the spying charges had been taken under pressure from Israel.

    He tried to present the suspects' guilty pleas to the reduced charges as a diplomatic victory for Cyprus. The pleas were tantamount to an admission by Israel that Hargov and Damary had been in Cyprus on behalf of Israel without the prior knowledge or permission of the Cyprus government, he said.

    Markides's statement contradicted what lawyer Andis Triantafyllides, who leads the two Israelis' defence team, had told the Larnaca Assizes during Friday's hearing. Triantafyllides said Israel had repeatedly informed the government of an elite Israeli anti-terrorist mission operating in Cyprus. He told the court Hargov and Damary were part of this mission and had not been spying against Cyprus.

    Markides also repeated yesterday that he did not believe state prosecutors had sufficient evidence to convict the two suspects on spying charges.

    Police said they found radio scanners and maps in the suspects' holiday flat at the time of their arrest.

    The Attorney-general has stated the decision to drop spying charges was "in the national interest," because a lengthy spying trial could have meant military secrets being aired in court before the suspects and their Israeli lawyers.

    Hargov and Damary are to be sentenced by the Larnaca Assizes court tomorrow.

    They could face up to six years behind bars for approaching a prohibited area, but the defence has pleaded for mitigation on the grounds that Hargov and Damary were not collecting information against Cyprus.

    The prosecution say the suspects were sighted in the Zigy area during sensitive National Guard operations.

    January 31, 1999

    [03] Round two of voting expected to bring Athanasios closer to bishopric

    ABBOT Athanasios of Machairas monastery is expected to move a step closer to becoming the next Bishop of Limassol in today's second round of Church elections.

    Despite the sordid attacks directed his way by the Bishop of Paphos, parishioners of the Limassol diocese showed overwhelming support for the abbot in the first round of elections on January 17 - giving 150 of the 200 special elector positions to his supporters.

    This morning, the 200 special electors vote for 50 among their number to act as general electors in the next round of voting. In mid-February these general electors will, along with 22 electors chosen by the Church from among the clergy, vote for a replacement for Chrysanthos, the disgraced former Bishop of Limassol.

    Abbot Athanasios, who by virtue of his position will be among the 22 Church- appointed electors, is seen as odds-on favourite for next Bishop.

    The run-up to this month's elections was marred by Bishop Chrysostomos of Paphos alleging that Athanasios' mentor, 80-year-old elder Iosif of the Mount Athos monastery of Vatopedhi, was a pervert who had molested nuns and young girls during his stay in Paphos 17 years ago. A Holy Synod investigation found Chrysostomos's claims against Iosif justified, while Vatopedhi monastery has threatened to sue Bishop Chrysostomos for libel.

    Bishop Chrysostomos last week made it clear he would be boycotting Athanasios' enthronement should he be elected.

    The elections for new bishop were announced in November last year after Chrysanthos was suspended over alleged involvement in multi-million-pound financial scams in Cyprus and abroad.

    January 31, 1999

    [04] Hunting laws to be tightened

    By Martin Hellicar

    GUN and hunting licence regulations are to be tightened in an effort to reduce the number of shooting accidents and halt the slaughter of protected birds.

    The proposed new legislation enjoys the support of both hunters and environmentalists, although the latter stress that it would not be enough in itself.

    Champion of the new bill is firebrand Diko deputy Marios Matsakis, who believes the current state of play concerning gun and hunting licences is a recipe for disaster.

    "As things stand, you apply for a gun licence once and it remains valid for life," Matsakis told The Sunday Mail. "Each person is allowed five guns in his own name and could have another five in his wife's name. It is easy to have a whole arsenal in one house."

    "Hunting licences have to be renewed annually but the procedure is a mere formality - you just go down to the District office and pay your money," he said.

    Matsakis said the result was that there is precious little control over who owns and who wields a gun.

    "We have many hunting accidents. I don't have exact figures, but each year we have fatalities and hundreds of injuries."

    In the latest hunting accident to hit the headlines, a 13-year-old boy was seriously injured when his father's shotgun misfired while they were hunting in the Larnaca area on January 6.

    If nothing is done, things can only get worse, Matsakis predicted. "Soon we will see hunting guns being used in criminal activities," he said.

    The proposed new legislation would force gun owners to renew their gun licences every year. Applicants would also have to pass a test before being granted a licence. This test would cover all aspects of gun safety and would also involve the applicant undergoing a medical test.

    "People would also have to prove they were keeping the guns safely in their homes. Their homes would be inspected to ensure that all guns were under lock and key in a metal cabinet," Matsakis said. "Anyone with a criminal record would be banned from having a gun licence."

    He described as "cursory" current checks on the criminal record of applicants.

    The new law would also try to put a stop to hunters shooting protected bird species - an illegal practice which environmentalists say is widespread.

    "Hunters would have to pass a test on species identification before getting their licence renewed," Matsakis said.

    The Hunters Association was completely behind the proposed legislation, its spokesman, Andreas Kyprianou, told The Sunday Mail.

    Kyprianou said the vast majority of hunters did not deserve the bad reputation they had, but he admitted there was room for improvement both in terms of safety standards and environmental awareness.

    Local hunting laws were already stricter than in many European countries and those 'bad apple' hunters who had tarnished the reputation of the blood sport by shooting protected species were now kicking their bad habits, Kyprianou maintained.

    Cyprus was one of the few countries in Europe where hunters were restricted to nothing more powerful than a double-barrelled shotgun, he said. The age limit for a gun licence was also high, he said. "To get a licence for a gun in Cyprus you have to be 21. This is much stricter than in Europe, where 18 is the limit." Kyprianou said this was ironic, considering that 18-year-old army conscripts were allowed to use "machine-guns and tanks".

    "But it is not an issue of age but rather of who gets to be a hunter: they should know the regulations, they should be true sportsmen and have an environmental conscience," he said.

    He admitted that a "small number" of hunters were prone to shoot both legitimate game and protected species indiscriminately, but added that things were fast changing for the better.

    "Enlightenment campaigns we have carried out over the past five years have changed things unbelievably," he said.

    "Things have got much better, but we do still need some steps, which is why we support the new legislation," he said.

    In addition to forcing new hunters to pass a test before getting a licence, the new law would make it obligatory for seasoned hunters to attend safety and conservation seminars every year, Kyprianou said.

    The Green party also backed the proposed clamp-down but stressed it was but a step in the right direction.

    "The problem is we don't have any statistics about what is being shot. It's very hard to know what hunters are actually up to," said party member Melina Menelaou.

    "Wildlife needs more protection," she said, adding that the government Game Service seemed concerned only with making sure there was enough game for hunters to shoot.

    Laws were all very well, but implementation was the key, the environmentalist added.

    "Many songbirds are still killed by illegal use of mist nets and lime sticks, and you can still buy pickled ambelopoulia caught in this manner in restaurants."

    Last week, two flamingoes - a protected species - were found shot at their winter feeding grounds at the Larnaca salt lake.

    January 31, 1999

    [05] Marina mania

    By Anthony O. Miller

    YOU DIDN'T need a bookmaker to tell you that the odds were stacked against Cyprus, and that it either had to act soon, or give up on tourism and refocus its economy on selling Halloumi by correspondence.

    Thirteen countries in Europe, Asia and Africa ring the Mediterranean's 969, 100 square miles of sea. Besides these, two of the sea's 11 major islands - Cyprus and Malta - are sovereign states. Then there are the scores of Aegean and other islets.

    These thousands of miles of coastline harbour some 1,400 marinas. And of these 1,400, Cyprus - an island with a 9,000-year maritime history - has two. Such numbers hardly put it on the world's charts as a place to put in, relax, provision, and sail on.

    Fighting a stacked deck, Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis steered a bill through Parliament to change this. And as marinas were on the cards, on Thursday he drew full House: Parliament passed his bill to give Cyprus six, perhaps seven, marinas, all run by private owners.

    First, the House of Representatives repealed a legal bar to leasing to private individuals any part of the shoreline going into the sea for the purpose of building permanent facilities of any kind - such as marinas. Next, it withdrew its demand for the right to set the rates to be charged boaters using the marinas.

    Rolandis fought hard for these two provisions, reminding deputies that Cyprus-EU accession talks represented the future, while House rate-setting for a private business was retrograde. He won.

    "The law went through on Thursday... allowing the building of marinas, and setting private rates," a satisfied Rolandis told the Sunday Mail.

    "We have convinced the House it is a must for Cyprus to upgrade its tourism. Because the sea and the sand are there, of course - very valuable as assets, but the tourist of today is more sophisticated. And while the sea and the sun are sufficient for some tourists, they are not for others," he said.

    President Glafcos Clerides must still sign the bill into law, Rolandis said, "but that will happen. I saw the president on Friday, and he was very gratified as well."

    By April, he said, tenders should be out, "and hopefully we may have people working on the marinas by the second half of the year. This is my objective, at least. I hope by this coming summer we could be in business," with some construction begun.

    Zacharias Ioannides, director-general of the Cyprus Hoteliers' Association, was also pleased at the House vote, as he had pledged his Association would take serious note of any needless delays in passing the legislation.

    "It's very good news," Ioannides said on Friday, "and I hope the steps that need to follow are taken as expeditiously as possible... We have been pushing (for years) the necessity of building a network of marinas on the coastline of Cyprus."

    The sole shoal Rolandis must now navigate is House approval of the international tenders he plans to seek. "This is a 40 to 50 page document," that the minister feels the government, not Parliament, ought to handle. But the House insisted on vetting every word.

    To avoid argument, he agreed. "I had a feeling that if we started an argument about that, it might take another three or four years" for the House to pass the bill.

    Rolandis said the tender-vetting would be smooth sailing, as he would advise the House at each step, "so that by the end of March, the beginning of April," the House will pass the tenders, they can go out, and "hopefully" work can begin as early as June.

    Ioannides pledged his Association would keep a close watch on the tender- vetting: "We hope the actual inviting of tenders proceeds immediately, without any unnecessary delay," he said.

    Rolandis' plan calls for a total of 5,000 berths divided among six, perhaps seven, marinas. One in Paphos would take 1,200 boats. A Limassol marina would berth another 1,200 vessels.

    The Larnaca marina, currently able to take only 300 boats, would be expanded to 1,200 slips, and privatised under the new law. The marina at the San Rafael Hotel in Limassol would probably remain at its current 300- berth capacity.

    A 600-berth marina in Ayia Napa, and one with 300 slips in Protaras would round out the certain six, "and there is also a request for Polis, as well - this would be the seventh," Rolandis said.

    "Such a number of marinas will bring additional tourism, and tourism that we call 'upgraded tourism' - tourists that can pay more money than the average. Probably they may increase tourism by five or 10 per cent," he added.

    Tourism was already up 6.45 per cent last year, and Rolandis expects a similar increase in 1999, with numbers rising from 2,222,701 last year to 3 million in 2003.

    Some are not so sanguine as Rolandis or Ioannides about the marina plan. George Perdikis, leader of the Green Party and prominent environmentalist, is one. He deplored what he said was the lack of any environmental impact studies before pushing to build 5,000 berths.

    "The government is fascinated with the extra money they will get from marinas," Perdikis said. "They assume that all the rich men of the world will come to Cyprus to go to these marinas."

    "Who said we need six more marinas? What studies were done? The issue should be studied and then put into practice," he said.

    Perdikis said if marina fees are market-set, then poorer Cypriots will have no affordable place to berth their small boats. Instead of building six marinas, he suggested one or two large ones, and smaller shelters along the coast for small boats and yachts.

    His objections were shared by a senior government employee, who is an expert in the field, but who insisted on anonymity. The expert said privatising all Cyprus' marinas would make it "the only country in the world without a single public marina."

    Already, he said, small boat owners were being driven out of fishing shelters. Without rivers, bays or coves suitable for mooring small boats, soon they will have no place to go, he said.

    While he agrees "we do need marinas, very urgently," he suggested the limit being 5,000 berths. After that, instead of building more berths, services should be upgraded - water, sewage, electrical hookups added - with corresponding rate rises.

    Rolandis said there would be a provision for special rates for certain types of boats, notably racing yachts. But he said: "You do not have a publicly owned hotel to give cheap accommodation to poor people.

    "The same applies to marinas," he said. "The marinas address a more limited number of people - the more affluent part of the society. So this argument does not stand."

    January 31, 1999

    [06] Fanieros club raided for gambling

    POLICE swooped on two suspected gambling dens in Larnaca in the early hours yesterday, making 25 arrests.

    According to a police announcement, Antonis Fanieros, 58, and his son Loucas, 30, were among the 15 people arrested at Fanieros's club during a raid shortly after 5am.

    In May 1997, Antonis Fanieros narrowly survived a drive-by machine-gun attack outside his Larnaca club. Last year, Loucas Fanieros survived a sniper attack in Larnaca.

    Both attacks were described by police as attempted gangland hits.

    Police said yesterday they found evidence that the 15 men had been involved in illegal gambling at the club.

    About four hours earlier, police had raided the Macedonia club, making ten arrests on suspicion of similar illicit activities.

    All 25 suspects were later charged with illegal gambling and released.

    January 31, 1999

    [07] Mercedes torched

    A SILVER Mercedes went up in flames in Larnaca in the early hours yesterday morning in what police believe was an arson attack.

    The car was parked in the garage of owner Dimitris Ilia on Georgios Constantinides street when the blaze broke out at about 4.30am, police reported.

    The fire was put out by the fire brigade, but not before 6,000 worth of damage had been done to the vehicle.

    Forensic examinations turned up evidence to suggest the fire had been started deliberately, police said.

    An investigation has been launched.

    January 31, 1999

    [08] Limassol follows Nicosia lead on litter fines

    FOLLOWING Nicosia's lead, Limassol municipality has decided to impose 20 fines on people caught littering public places.

    Nicosia Municipal employees have for the past fortnight been handing out dummy 20 tickets as a warning to litter bugs. From March 1, the 20 fines will be for real.

    And now trash offenders in the island's largest port city can expect to get their comeuppance in exactly the same manner, Limassol municipality has announced.

    The fines will be mere warnings till the Spring only, the municipality said. After that, anyone not paying up can expect to face court action.

    January 31, 1999

    [09] Hotel workers strike over redundancies

    WORKERS from two luxury hotels in Larnaca yesterday began an indefinite strike over redundancies.

    However, management at the two hotels, the five-star Golden Bay and the four-star Lordos Beach, say their guests have been unaffected by the industrial action.

    Sek and Peo unions issued an announcement yesterday saying the decision to strike had been reached following redundancies at both hotels. The unions said the redundancies were "in contravention of collective agreements, against the law and unprecedented".

    The strike, which began at 5.30am did not affect guests, both hotels said.

    Lordos Beach said that of its 80 staff, only around 15 were on strike. Twelve employees had been made redundant, according to the hotel.

    The nearby Golden Bay also said the majority of its staff had remained at work.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998

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