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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-18

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, February 18, 1999


  • [01] Ocalan's 'Cyprus passport'
  • [02] Kurds on hunger vigil outside embassy
  • [03] Unions agree to end port strike
  • [04] Hotel management rejects open-ended talks
  • [05] Police close ranks on riot beatings
  • [06] Journalists' union argues for self-regulation
  • [07] Drug suspects remanded
  • [08] Galanos backs calls for reshuffle
  • [09] Parties accept Clerides call for dialogue
  • [10] Rolandis appoints official to probe Philoxenia scandal
  • [11] Enclaved terrorised by settlers, committee claims
  • [12] Church recovers fragment of stolen fresco
  • [13] Timber workers out on strike

  • [01] Ocalan's 'Cyprus passport'

    By Charlie Charalambous

    CYPRUS yesterday became embroiled in the Ocalan affair when Turkish television displayed a Cypriot passport allegedly found in the possession of the Kurdish leader.

    But the name on the passport is not that of Abdullah Ocalan, but of Lazaros Mavros, the well-known Cypriot journalist and Kurdish sympathiser of the same name.

    President Glafcos Clerides yesterday ordered a police investigation into how, when and where, Ocalan had got hold of a Cypriot passport.

    Officials said it was too early in their inquiries to say whether Mavros had ever reported his passport as missing.

    The President called acting Foreign Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou, Attorney-general Alecos Markides and Justice Minister Nicos Koshis for an emergency session yesterday afternoon.

    A brief statement was issued after the meeting by Government spokesman Christos Stylianides:

    "In connection with media reports to the effect that Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan was holding a Cypriot passport, the police are carrying out an investigation in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Cyprus."

    Mavros himself had little to say on the allegations. Last night, he gave a terse statement on Sigma TV, for whom he works: "As the President of the Republic has stated, an investigation has been called into the whole issue and because of this I have nothing to say now. I will say what I have to say to the investigators."

    The date of birth given on the 'Ocalan' passport (9.8.1953), as well as the place of birth, Nicosia, are exactly the same as those of Lazaros Mavros, as given in the latest edition of the Cyprus Who's Who. A signature on the passport would also appear to be that of Mavros. But the passport picture is definitely that of Ocalan.

    The red colour of the passport rules out earlier speculation that it might have been a diplomatic passport, which are blue.

    A government source told the Reuters news agency that there was "no chance" of Ocalan ever being issued a Cypriot passport.

    But a Kenyan official said in Nairobi that Ocalan may have travelled with another Cypriot passport under the name of Aristos Aristidou when he arrived in Kenya on February 2.

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash yesterday told reporters the passport was "further proof that Greek Cyprus will continue to have the foes of Turkey as friends of Cyprus."

    There was widespread speculation yesterday - backed by unnamed government sources - that the passport was a fake planted by Turkish security forces in an attempt to discredit Cyprus.

    Mavros is a popular TV and Radio presenter employed by the Dias media group, who does not shirk from airing his forthright views. He is a regular on the group's Sigma TV, Radio Proto and Simerini newspaper.

    Mavros is married to fellow journalist Maria Svetsou and has three children.

    He took up the pro-Kurdish mantle in Cyprus after fellow activist Theophilos Georgiades was shot down by masked gunmen outside his Nicosia home five years ago.

    It is widely believed the Turkish secret service was behind the murder.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [02] Kurds on hunger vigil outside embassy

    By Charlie Charalambous

    SOME 50 Kurds yesterday held a hunger strike outside the Greek embassy in Nicosia in protest at the capture by Turkey of their leader Abdullah Ocalan.

    Kurds have targeted Greek embassies all over Europe with often violent demonstrations because of Athens' involvement in the Ocalan affair and suspicions that Greece may have played a role in his capture. Ocalan had taken refuge at the Greek embassy in Nairobi in the days preceding his seizure.

    Protests in Cyprus have so far been peaceful, with over 50 Kurds and some Cypriots holding an all night vigil outside the Nicosia embassy on Tuesday night.

    The hunger strikers were kept at a distance of around 60 metres from the embassy, which was surrounded by barbed-wire and a heavy police presence.

    Men, women and children chanted slogans in support of Ocalan and demanding his release from Turkey.

    Demonstrators said they were not angry at the Greek people, but were hostile to Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, who they believe "sold" Ocalan to the Turks.

    "For 20 years, the Turks did not manage to arrest him, and now Simitis handed over on a plate," one Kurdish demonstrator said yesterday.

    Apart from increased police protection at the Greek embassy and the ambassador's residence, security measures have also been stepped up at the American embassy in Nicosia.

    After reports that the FBI tipped off Ankara about Ocalan's whereabouts in Nairobi, US embassies have been put on alert across the world.

    "The only thing we can say is that all the necessary security measures have been taken to protect the Greek and US embassies," police spokesman Glafcos Xenos told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Although the government and most local politicians declared their full backing for Greece in the Ocalan affair, fringe party New Horizons yesterday attacked Athens.

    "This incomprehensible and unjust stance stigmatises and shames Hellenism," said yesterday's party announcement, criticising the Greek government's refusal to protect Ocalan.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [03] Unions agree to end port strike

    THE 17-DAY strike at Larnaca port ended yesterday.

    Unions announced that they were calling off strike action after Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas last night presented them with a settlement proposal.

    Union leaders accepted the proposal as a starting-point for dialogue.

    The proposal included provisions for the workers' future employment once the port is turned into a leisure harbour, as recently announced by the government.

    The 150 dockers and stevedores had been striking since the beginning of the month. Workers had used loading machinery to block the harbour entrance in protest at the harbour's uncertain future and their lack of work.

    Moushiouttas delivered the proposal to unions after the strike was discussed at yesterday's Cabinet meeting.

    After a February 13 meeting with strike representatives from Sek, Peo and Deok unions, Moushiouttas had said that negotiations were going well.

    The minister said at the time that unions wanted alternative work to be provided for staff set to lose their jobs once the port was converted. The unions also want compensation for redundancies to be outlined by April 15.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [04] Hotel management rejects open-ended talks

    MANAGEMENT at the two Larnaca hotels into their third week of strike action announced yesterday they had rejected a union call for discussions "on an open list of issues".

    Lordos Holdings, which owns the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels affected by the strike, said they were willing to meet with the unions under the auspices of Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas, but only to discuss certain issues.

    These issues, a company announcement said, included finding alternative employment for redundant staff who were still out of work or had not received any offers for alternative employment.

    Lordos Holdings is also willing to discuss the return to work of pickets, "who have not committed an offence during the strikes."

    Management has previously ruled out any talk of reinstating dismissed staff.

    The 73 redundancies at the heart of the dispute came as part of a cost- cutting package that saw outside contractors taking over certain sectors of the hotels.

    Meanwhile, two union representatives are set to appear before Larnaca Court today accused of violating a court order barring pickets from blocking the hotel entrances.

    Sek's Kyriakos Yiasoumis and Peo's Andreas Zahariou are accused of preventing two strike-breakers from entering the Lordos Beach hotel on Tuesday afternoon.

    Yiasoumis and Zahariou apparently hurled abuse at the two women after trying to persuade them not go to work.

    At the same time, three female strikers tried to prevent the two employees' car from entering the hotel.

    Lordos Holdings took out court orders on February 10 prohibiting strikers from blocking the entrances to the two hotels and from harassing non- striking employees and suppliers.

    On Monday, 34 pickets and union representatives appeared before the Court on the same charge.

    The court decided that the court orders would remain in effect until February 25, when the workers' appeals would be heard.

    Unions on Tuesday announced that a two hour strike at all Larnaca hotels would take place tomorrow, and have threatened to escalate the strike nationwide.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [05] Police close ranks on riot beatings

    By Charlie Charalambous

    POLICE yesterday closed ranks to defend the MMAD deputy commander facing prosecution for his part in the brutal beatings of African immigrants in Larnaca.

    Rank and file members of the force have expressed "shock" at Attorney- general Alecos Markides' decision to charge rapid reaction force (MMAD) chief Haralambos Mavros with dereliction of duty.

    And yesterday the Police Association spoke out about the decision to prosecute the man who oversaw the botched operation.

    "Members of the association have decided to stand by the officer both ethically and materially, and in addition we request a meeting with the chief of police to express the dangers we face while on duty," said association president Stelious Ioannou.

    TV footage of riot police clubbing and kicking defenceless African men during a riot at the Larnaca holding cells last October caused a public outcry.

    Despite the violent scenes, witnessed by thousands of viewers, no other policemen would be prosecuted for their part in the attack, due to a lack of evidence, Markides said on Monday.

    But this has done nothing to dampen feelings among policemen who believe they are being unfairly picked on and prevented from properly doing their duty.

    "Every time a group of policemen is told to restore law and order are they going to be put in the dock?" said Ioannou.

    He said the police could not be worried about whether they might be questioned about using reasonable force every time they were called out to an incident.

    Judging by the association's reaction, the police force believes it used necessary force to quell a riot by immigrants at the holding cells.

    "If there is a machine which can measure violence and the law gives us a right to use it then we won't make mistakes. But the law says we can use reasonable force to restore order," said Ioannou.

    Markides said that one of the reasons why individual riot policemen could not be prosecuted was because they wore gas masks which covered their faces and prevented identification, either by their victims or from video evidence.

    The other factor was that all those who took part in the operation decided to keep silent about what happened.

    Africans injured during the riot were compensated by the government, and 30 of them were deported to Nigeria on Tuesday.

    Twelve immigrants have remained to testify against the police in court.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [06] Journalists' union argues for self-regulation

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE HOUSE interior committee yesterday began discussion of a package of regulations imposing strict controls on sex and violence on television.

    The regulations back up a broadcasting bill passed last year and will go before the House plenum for approval after the committee and various sub- committees have ploughed their way through the more than 100 pages of rules and guidelines.

    Broadcasting Authority chairman Alecos Evangelou told the committee the regulations - drawn up by his service - would "upgrade the quality of the media product."

    He added that Attorney-general Alecos Markides had ruled that licences for private media outlets could not be granted until the regulations had been approved by the House. The plenum will today vote on a temporary two-month extension of broadcasting licences to allow the committee time to consider the regulations.

    The chairman of the Journalists' union, Andreas Kanaouros, welcomed the regulations, saying they would help "right wrongs" in broadcasting.

    But he added that journalists were in favour of self-regulation.

    "I want to stress that the media have already adopted a code of ethics," Kanaouros said. The new regulations were a "99 per cent copy" of the journalist's self-imposed code of ethics, he said.

    Deputy Marios Matsakis doubted the effectiveness of these efforts at self- regulation.

    Representatives of private television and radio channels protested to the committee that they had not been fully consulted during the drawing up of the regulations and had not had sufficient time to consider the voluminous bill. But committee chairman Nicos Katsourides was dismissive of these protests, reminding the media representatives that neither ministries nor the House were under any obligation to consult them before drawing up or approving bills.

    "It is up to us deputies to decide on the issue and we are free to vote for the opposite of what you suggest," he told the media men.

    The new broadcasting regulations ban the screening of close-ups of dead bodies or seriously injured persons during television news footage and set out strict guidelines for protection of privacy. The bill stipulates that news broadcasts should be accurate, objective, unbiased and complete.

    The regulations ban portrayals of sexual acts involving minors, acts of sado-masochism or sexual "abnormalities of any sort".

    "Channels cannot show (sexual) activities that might offend the sensibilities of the majority of the viewing public," the bill states.

    If approved, the regulations would also force television channels to show on-screen classification notations during all films.

    If strictly implemented, the bill would also ban violent cartoons.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [07] Drug suspects remanded

    TWO SUSPECTED drug dealers caught after a shootout on the beach were remanded for four days yesterday by a Larnaca district court.

    Kyriacos Kyriacou, 19, and Loizos Iracleous, 23, both from Leivadhia, were arrested by drug squad officers on Tuesday following a suspected drug deal on the CTO beach in Dhekelia.

    Kyriacou, a National Guardsman, was lightly injured when police fired at the speeding car in which the suspects tried to escape the scene.

    Both men are suspected of possession of 40 grammes of cannabis with the intent to supply.

    Defence lawyer Kypros Andreou asked investigating officer Christakis Papadopoulos whether the so-called buyer of the drugs was a policeman.

    Papadopoulos said he did not know but would look into the allegation.

    He also said police were trying to track down the person in Ayia Napa who allegedly supplied the drugs to Kyriacou.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [08] Galanos backs calls for reshuffle

    SUPPORT for a government reshuffle yesterday came from Eurodemocratic Renewal Party leader Alexis Galanos.

    Galanos told reporters that a reshuffle should not merely be "a matter of people," but for the government "to change the image it has today and, if you like, its mentality."

    He said a reshuffle would give the government the opportunity to show the public that a new start was being made and that it should be carried out as soon as possible.

    He added his party would be meeting with President Glafcos Clerides on March 12, following Clerides' recent invitation that all parties contribute to discussions on important issues such as EU harmonisation, VAT and the economy.

    Recent polls show Clerides' government has reached an all time low in popularity following the President's decision not to deploy the S-300 missiles in Cyprus.

    Meanwhile, media speculation yesterday suggested the reshuffle would be taking place in May or June.

    One paper said that "sources in the President's environment" had revealed that the reshuffle had been pushed back because of Clerides' decision to meet with the party leaders.

    The same sources continued that another reason was that Clerides was waiting for the House's decision on the future of Interior Minster Dinos Michaelides.

    Michaelides was last year accused of corruption by the head of the House Watchdog Committee Andreas Pourgourides. He was cleared of wrongdoing by cabinet-appointed investigators, but the House is still to consider a report drawn up by the watchdog committee.

    The Palace sources also cited divisions on how the reshuffle should take place and in particular whether or not a broad-based government should be formed.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [09] Parties accept Clerides call for dialogue

    PRESIDENT Clerides' invitation to a dialogue on key issues has been accepted by all party leaders.

    Diko yesterday said yes to the President's invitation, which had already been accepted by Disy, Akel, Edek, the United Democrats and Eurodemocratic Renewal party leader Alexis Galanos.

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides announced that the dialogue would take the form of separate meetings between Clerides and the party leaders in the first 12 days of March.

    The dialogue aims at reaching a consensus on serious issues like state expenditure, VAT increases and EU harmonisation procedure, and is seen as part of the government's image bolstering campaign.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [10] Rolandis appoints official to probe Philoxenia scandal

    By Anthony O. Miller

    COMMERCE Minister Nicos Rolandis said yesterday he was appointing one of his ministry's officials to probe the whiff of scandal at the Philoxenia Hotel and the Cyprus International Conference Centre.

    And he is also sending his ministry's preliminary report on the money- losing Nicosia Hilton Hotel to the Auditor-general's office, for further examination, he added.

    The Cyprus government wholly owns the Philoxenia, and 82 per cent of the Cyprus Tour Development Company (CTDC), which owns the Nicosia Hilton. Cyprus Stock Exchange rules are forcing the government to cut its CTDC stock holdings to 70 per cent.

    Once his ministry studies the Philoxenia, Rolandis said, he will decide if that report warrants referral to the Auditor-general. The Auditor-general, in turn, will decide if a referral to the Attorney-general's office is warranted by any suspicious discoveries, Rolandis said.

    "The process, which will apply here... will apply to any future cases," of suspected impropriety in any of his ministry's departments or agencies. Besides the Commerce brief, Rolandis's ministry also holds the Industry and Tourism briefs.

    Philoxenia scandal suspicions include claims that relatives of hotel staff held free weddings there; that mukhtars and others used its rooms for sex romps with mistresses and girlfriends; and that the hotel's board grew to its 10-member size due to political party nepotism.

    Rolandis confirmed that these charges were hanging over the Philoxenia Hotel and adjacent Conference Centre, and that those alleging them were willing to testify.

    "I cannot say," he said when asked if there is evidence of criminality at the hotel or conference centre. "I will wait for the report," of his own ministry official, he said.

    The Philoxenia Hotel, which has gone to seed from neglect, needs 2 million in renovation. Its board wants the money-losing hotel closed on March 31, if no one can be found to renovate and operate it.

    A renovator/operator, instead of a buyer, is needed because the hotel cannot be sold; the House of Representatives legislated against sale of its stock by the government or the House.

    As to the Hilton Hotel, "we have the report from our official. It will now be referred to the Auditor-general," he said. "Most of the findings appear to deal with no (major) problems.

    "But there are some points. So to be on the safe side, I will seek the advice of the Auditor-general. This is the decision of the Council of Ministers today," he added.

    The Hilton's losses have two roots, Rolandis has said: 17 million spent in the early 1990s to add extra rooms and refurbish existing ones; and timing that construction to the very moment two other luxury hotels, the Forum International and the Holiday Inn, opened their doors, drawing off Nicosia's tiny hotel market.

    Before the investment, the CTDC had income of about "1.4 million per year... (and) a profit of 1 million," after interest and depreciation, Rolandis said. "After the 17 million investment, the picture was reversed, " he said.

    With much higher interest and depreciation, and a huge fall-off in occupancies, "the profit of 1 million was reversed to a loss of 1 million per year," Rolandis said. "At the moment there is no magic way to change things. We are looking at it from all aspects, and we shall see what we can do."

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [11] Enclaved terrorised by settlers, committee claims

    ELDERLY enclaved villagers are being terrorised by howling stone-throwing Turkish settlers, the Karpasia Coordinating Committee claimed yesterday.

    Organised gangs of settlers led by Turkish Cypriot 'policemen' were targeting the homes of residents in the remote Karpasia village of Rizokarpaso and other enclaved villages, the committee stated.

    Unfycip spokesperson Sarah Russell said the reports were being investigated.

    The committee said it had got its information from relatives of enclaved persons, who had heard the settlers' howling and stone-throwing attacks while talking to their loved ones on the telephone from the government- controlled areas.

    The attacks were part of a co-ordinated Turkish effort to force the enclaved to abandon the occupied areas, the committee stated.

    Fewer than 600 Greek Cypriots remain in the north.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [12] Church recovers fragment of stolen fresco

    By Martin Hellicar

    A SECTION of a fresco looted from the occupied church of Antifonitis was returned to the island yesterday.

    The wall painting - depicting the head of an angel - was accompanied on its trip from Paris by Tassoula Hadjitofi, Cyprus's consul to the Hague.

    Hadjitofi said the fresco had been found in the possession of Marianna Latsi, a Greek collector in Paris, who willingly donated it to the Church after its origins were made clear to her.

    The location of the fresco was revealed by two Dutch collectors the Cyprus Church took to court in Rotterdam in an ill-fated effort to force them to return four Antifonitis icons in their possession, Hadjitofi said.

    The elderly Dutch couple complained to the court that the Cyprus Church was eager to seize Cyprus icons held by foreign collectors but allowed Greek collectors to get away with the same, Hadjitofi explained. The Dutch collectors cited Latsi's fresco as an example of this "double standard".

    Hadjitofi, who acts as the Church's representative for stolen arts, said the Church had not known of the Antifonitis fresco in Latsi's Paris collection.

    Latsi willingly consented to the fresco's return to Cyprus when approached by Hadjitofi, saying she had not been aware of its origins. The fresco is to be exhibited in the Archbishopric's museum in Nicosia.

    Hadjitofi also repeated that the Church was to appeal against the Rotterdam court decision blocking the return of the four icons found in Holland in 1995.

    The Dutch court recognised that the icons had been taken from the Antifonitis church, near Ayios Ambrosios village in the Kyrenia district, but ruled they could not be returned to Cyprus because Holland had not enacted the 1954 Hague convention on the return of artifacts stolen during war.

    The Rotterdam court ruled that, under local law, the elderly Dutch collectors could keep the icons because there was no evidence to suggest they had not bought them in good faith.

    It is believed the elderly Dutch collectors bought the icons off an Armenian art dealer who is thought to have acquired them through a network of illegal dealers in the occupied areas.

    The four icons - depicting apostles - are valued at about 85,000.

    Thursday, February 18, 1999

    [13] Timber workers out on strike

    STATE timber industry workers came out on a 24-hour strike yesterday to protest at plans to lay off half of their number.

    The protesters gathered outside the Agriculture Ministry yesterday morning and then marched down to the Commerce Ministry to continue their protest there.

    The timber workers want the government to support the sector and block management's plan to sack over 70 employees.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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