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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-19

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Friday, February 19, 1999


  • [01] Hotel staff sue unions over walk-out
  • [02] Markides tells police to dig deeper on Mavros passport
  • [03] Kurdish girl who burned herself in London had fled persecution in occupied areas
  • [04] Israel denies any role in Ocalan capture, steps up embassy security
  • [05] Public sector union to strike against health plan
  • [06] Moscow deal sets terms for Cretan missile deployment
  • [07] Suspects deny killing Hambis Aeroporos
  • [08] Stevedores reject port agreement
  • [09] Deputies approve abolition of death penalty
  • [10] Bank of Cyprus 1998 profits up as share gains strength
  • [11] Boy hospitalised with bacterial meningitis
  • [12] Ukrainian woman killed in city crash
  • [13] Sixth education fair: a first-hand opportunity

  • [01] Hotel staff sue unions over walk-out

    By Athena Karsera

    STAFF who have continued to work through a bitter strike at two Larnaca hotels yesterday announced they are suing the unions that ordered the walk- out.

    The Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotel workers said in a statement they were taking the action against Peo and Sek because "in our opinion, the decision to strike at the two hotels where we work was made in violation of the law... These strikes are illegal".

    Hotel workers have been striking for 21 days in protest at the dismissal of 73 workers from three Lordos Holdings hotels.

    The staff from the Golden Bay, Lordos Beach and a third hotel closed for the winter were dismissed when sections of each hotel were turned over to private contractors in an attempt to cut costs.

    Yesterday's statement by the non-strikers said the decision to call the strike had not followed a majority vote, "as is clearly called for by law".

    They accused the strikers of infringing their own right to work and added that the lawsuit was an attempt to clear their names and "ensure our personal freedom and the democratic right of all citizens to take a free decision".

    Pickets have been accused of harassing strike-breaking colleagues and trying to bar their entry to the hotels.

    The working staff said yesterday they would use all available legal means to prove that "the unions and no one else are responsible for all that has happened to hurt tourism, our jobs and our good names".

    On hearing the news, Sek's hotels representative Nicos Epistithiou told the Cyprus Mail that all the unions could do was consult their legal advisors.

    He said that a meeting had taken place before the strike at which the majority of workers had been present.

    Peo's Andreas Trahanas was furious at the news, and accused the strike- breakers of betraying the workers' cause. He said there were 160 pickets and only 40 non-strikers "at both hotels".

    This is the unions' second brush with the law in what has become an increasingly bitter dispute. Last week, Lordos Holdings, which owns all three hotels, took out court orders prohibiting pickets from blocking the hotel entrances or preventing non-strikers or suppliers from entering the hotels.

    The unions will have their appeal against the court orders heard on February 25.

    Sek and Peo have called a two-hour sympathy strike at 10am at all Larnaca hotels today. The unions say that unless progress is made in negotiations, action will be escalated to other towns next week.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [02] Markides tells police to dig deeper on Mavros passport

    By Charlie Charalambous

    ATTORNEY-GENERAL Alecos Markides is dissatisfied with a police report into how captured Kurd leader Abdullah Ocalan allegedly came to possess a Cypriot passport.

    Markides was handed the report on the allegations yesterday afternoon, but after studying the findings, he gave fresh orders for police to probe the matter further.

    "He (Markides) has given instructions to the police to investigate the matter further," said a spokesperson at the Attorney-general's office.

    Markides has made it clear that he will not make any further announcements until the passport issue is cleared up.

    Less than 24-hours after President Clerides demanded an investigation into the Turkish allegations, special police investigators had completed their initial findings.

    Investigators submitted their case file after police questioned well known Cypriot journalist and pro-Kurdish activist Lazaros Mavros.

    It was his Republic of Cyprus passport that Turkey claimed was found in the possession of Ocalan when he was captured by its security forces on Tuesday.

    The politically-sensitive allegations by Ankara have been met with a tight- lipped response from the government, the police and the journalist involved.

    "The police have spoken to Mr Mavros, but we are not going to announce anything on this matter," a police source said earlier in the day.

    Government spokesman Christos Stylianides cancelled his press briefing yesterday morning and sent out a short statement later in the day to confirm the "police investigation was complete and would be submitted to the Attorney-general".

    The swiftness of the investigation seems to suggest the authorities believe the "Ocalan passport" is a fake, but Markides' request for further investigations hints at possible gaps in that argument.

    Claims by Kenyan officials that Ocalan arrived in Nairobi on February 2 bearing another Cypriot passport in the name of Aristos Aristidou have been dismissed.

    "I understand there is a person called Aristos Aristidou who is in possession of his passport and he definitely exists," Foreign Ministry permanent secretary Alecos Shambos told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    He said the Aristidou in question was a Cypriot citizen living in Greece.

    "We would never issue anyone with a diplomatic passport who wasn't entitled, " Shambos said, dismissing rumours that Ocalan was travelling on a Cypriot- issued diplomatic passport.

    He was echoed later by Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides who rubbished the allegations from Washington, where he has been holding Cyprus problem talks with top US officials.

    "Cyprus has enough problems of its own, without mixing in or being involved in the Kurdish problem," the minister told reporters. "I admit we have sympathy for the Kurds and their struggle for human rights and cultural identity."

    However, he said, "the government of Cyprus has nothing to do whatsoever with the recent adventure regarding Mr. Ocalan or the PKK."

    Cassoulides went on: "We have often been accused by Turkey of harbouring PKK people in Cyprus. We have repeatedly stated that Cyprus is a very small country with so many foreign people in it and is open for anyone to search, to look for any PKK people in Cyprus, and that was never substantiated."

    Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash on Wednesday said the passport affair was proof that the Cyprus government gave succour to Turkey's enemies.

    On Wednesday, Cyprus became entangled in the Ocalan affair after Turkish TV displayed a Cypriot passport allegedly belonging to Mavros.

    Following the Turkish claims, Clerides ordered a police investigation into "how, when and where," Ocalan got hold of a Cypriot passport.

    The name, date of birth (August 8, 1953) and place of birth (Nicosia) given on 'Ocalan's passport' match those of Mavros as listed in the latest Cyprus Who's Who.

    Mavros is a popular TV and radio presenter and vice president of the Cyprus- Kurdistan Solidarity Committee.

    The father-of-three took up the pro-Kurdish mantle in Cyprus after fellow activist Theophilos Georgiades was shot down by masked gunmen outside his Nicosia home on March 20, 1994.

    The Cyprus government blamed the killing on the Turkish secret service (MIT), but the culprits were never found.

    Cyprus intelligence believes that Mavros' life could also be at risk from MIT hit men because of his high-profile activities; he is reported to enjoy special protection.

    Yesterday evening, the House plenum passed a resolution condemning Ocalan's arrest and conditions of detainment.

    The House called for Ocalan to be given a fair trial and expressed its support for the Kurdish people's struggle.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [03] Kurdish girl who burned herself in London had fled persecution in occupied areas

    THE TEENAGE Kurdish girl who set herself on fire outside the Greek embassy in London this week was born in Cyprus.

    Nejla Kanteper, 14, now being treated for 30 per cent burns at a west London hospital, fled to Britain from occupied Cyprus following persecution by the Denktash regime.

    Her father, Suleyman Coskun, 45, said his family was very political. They moved to Britain from their home in occupied Rizokarpaso six years ago.

    The family told the British press they had left the occupied areas after suffering years of persecution by the Turks, including regular beatings and harassment during raids by Turkish Cypriot police.

    Suleyman Coskun was born into a farming family in Mus, eastern Turkey, in 1953, and left for Cyprus in 1976. His first wife remained in Cyprus with four children, while his second partner, Kadiyre Kanteper, accompanied him to Britain with Nejla in January 1993.

    Nejla suffered burns to her arms, back and legs after setting fire to herself during anti-Greek protests over Abdullah Ocalan's arrest on Tuesday.

    The Tottenham schoolgirl was described as a ringleader among Kurdish pupils and a PKK activist.

    "I didn't want her to burn herself and my heart is weak as a father. But I am proud of what she has done. She has observed all the oppression and cruelty that the Kurdish people are suffering," the girl's father told demonstrators outside the Greek embassy in London.

    Coskun added: "I spoke to her in hospital and I asked her why she had done this and she said, 'Dad we are burning every day'."

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [04] Israel denies any role in Ocalan capture, steps up embassy security

    ISRAEL has denied local press reports that Israeli agents were involved in the abduction of Kurdish guerilla leader Abdullah Ocalan by Turkish security forces.

    "With regards to unfounded reports in some local media both yesterday and today, we wish to reiterate that Israel wants to make it absolutely clear and categorically denies, that it was in any way whatsoever, involved in the capture of Abdullah Ocalan," said yesterday's statement by the Israeli embassy in Nicosia.

    Despite fear of reprisals following the killing of three Kurdish protestors outside the Israeli consulate in Berlin, it was business as usual at the Nicosia embassy yesterday.

    But security has been beefed up at the embassy in view of the events in Germany, where Israeli guards opened fire on Kurdish demonstrators trying to storm the consulate.

    "As you can see the embassy is not closed and we are taking all the necessary security measures," Israeli embassy spokesman Matty Cohen told the Cyprus Mail.

    Security has also been stepped up at the Greek and US embassies in Nicosia since Tuesday's events.

    Some 50 Kurds continued their hunger strike yesterday outside the Greek embassy in protest against Greece's involvement in the Ocalan affair.

    Ocalan was earlier this week spirited away from Nairobi, where he was being harboured by the Greek ambassador.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [05] Public sector union to strike against health plan

    CIVIL Service union Pasydy yesterday announced that all civil servants would go on strike next Thursday in protest at the proposed new National Health scheme.

    In a statement issued late in the afternoon, the union said the "time is not right for a radical restructuring of the health sector."

    The strike will last for two hours, beginning at 11.30am.

    Pasydy, teachers' unions Poed and Oelmek and the Police Association have all previously threatened strike action if the government goes ahead with the National Health scheme without fully consulting them first. There was no word yesterday on whether teachers or police officers would join the Pasydy strike.

    Pasydy is concerned that the contributions made from members' wages will exceed the amount they already pay out to their union health schemes. The union is also worried about the working conditions of health professionals it represents if the scheme is implemented.

    Health Minister Christos Solomis said yesterday the tabling of the bill before the House - planned for next Thursday, the day of the strike - did not preclude parallel negotiations on related matters of concern.

    And, although he has promised that the government will look after the welfare of all civil servants involved in the medical profession, he has also warned that he won't allow civil servants to block promotion of the bill.

    Government doctors back the National Health plan, but are now no longer members of Pasydy after forming their own breakaway union last year.

    Speaking yesterday morning during a visit to Limassol General Hospital, Solomis said the proposed scheme would require an annual budget of 187 million. Under the proposal, contributions of 2 per cent of employees' salary will be taken out, in parallel with contributions of 2.55 per cent by the employer.

    Speaking before the announcement of the strike, Solomis said strike threats were "unnecessary" and the result of needless worrying on the part of government unions that they would no longer be entitled to free healthcare.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [06] Moscow deal sets terms for Cretan missile deployment

    CYPRUS and Russia have finalised the deal shifting the S-300 missiles' deployment from Cyprus to Crete, it was announced yesterday.

    A statement issued by the Cypriot embassy in Moscow said talks ended on Wednesday evening "with the signing of a document making alterations and additions changing the place for deploying the S-300 complex and sending it to the Greek island of Crete".

    The deal was signed by Defence Minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis and the head of Russian state-run arms giant Rosvooruzheniye, Grigory Raporta.

    Chrysostomis travelled to Russia on Monday. Also attending the meetings was a Greek Defence Ministry party including Defence Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

    The changes to the deal seem to have gone as smoothly as promised by the arms giant last week, when Raporta said the company expected no problems with the changes.

    Last week in Athens, Chrysostomis and Tsohatzopoulos signed an agreement to deploy the missiles on Crete.

    No value has been given for the S-300 deal, but it is thought to be worth between $300 and $500 million.

    Rosvooruzheniye has gone on record as saying it has received 90 per cent of the payment.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [07] Suspects deny killing Hambis Aeroporos

    By Martin Hellicar

    FIVE suspects, including two police officers, yesterday pleaded not guilty to involvement in the killing of gangland figure Hambis Aeroporos.

    Three hooded gunmen shot Hambis, 35, in broad daylight on the old Ypsonas to Limassol road on December 16 last year.

    Policeman Christos Symianos, 35, special constable Savvas Ioannou, alias Kinezos, 33, waiter Prokopis Prokopi, 35, nightclub owner Sotiris Athinis, 43, and his sister, 51-year-old hospital cleaner Zoe Alexandrou, were all brought up before the Limassol assizes yesterday to plead to charges of conspiring to murder Hambis.

    The suspects - all from Limassol except Kinezos who is from Nicosia - are also charged with the attempted murder of Hambis' cousin, Charalambos Onisiforou, who was with Hambis in his car at the time of the attack. Onisiforou survived unscathed.

    Symianos, Ioannou and Prokopi also face charges of illegal possession and use of automatic weapons.

    The accused pleaded not guilty to all the charges and the court set the first trial hearing for May 10.

    The two policemen and Prokopi will remain in police custody till the trial but, following a request from their lawyer, the court ruled that Athinis and his sister - who are not charged with taking part in the actual shooting - could be released on 50,000 bail each.

    According to police, the suspects are linked to the murder by numbers logged in the memory of a mobile phone which the gunmen left behind in the car they abandoned at the scene of the crime.

    The phone belongs to Alexandrou, who claims it was stolen from her the day before the attack.

    Police also say Onisiforou has provided a description of the attackers and a name which he overheard one of them shout.

    The December killing is thought to be part of a long-running underworld feud between Larnaca and Limassol gangs vying for control of lucrative gambling, narcotics and prostitution rackets. The gangland turf war has claimed a dozen lives in three years.

    Hambis' 32-year-old brother, Andros, was shot outside a Limassol cabaret on July 31, just weeks after he, Hambis and their brother Panicos, 25, were acquitted of the attempted murder of Larnaca gambling club owner Antonis Fanieros, 57, on May 29, 1997.

    Police said ballistic tests carried out on cartridges and one of the automatics found at the scene of Hambis' killing had shown the same M58 had been used to shoot Hambis and his brother Andros.

    One of Hambis' suspected killers, Athinis, survived a bomb attack outside his club in August last year. His brother Melios, believed to have been a rival of the Aeroporos clan, was shot dead in November 1995.

    A month before, Onisiforou's father Foris was shot dead in Limassol. Four months before that Hambis was ambushed and shot in Limassol. He survived thanks to extensive surgery in Israel.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [08] Stevedores reject port agreement

    By Athena Karsera

    STEVEDORES at Larnaca port yesterday decided to stay on strike, even though harbour workers had called off their 17-day strike late the night before.

    Stevedore representatives said that they had taken the decision because they had not been presented with the proposal given to the dockers.

    Spokesmen from the Larnaca Harbour Stevedores' Association said that they had not had any negotiations with the Communications Ministry, under whose jurisdiction they fall.

    The entrance to the harbour remains blocked with their loading machinery.

    Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas on Wednesday night presented workers' unions Sek, Peo and Deok with a six-point proposal.

    The plan included a timetable for the completion by March 10 of a Technical Committee study entitled 'Developing the Larnaca Port- Problems caused in relation to staff'.

    The proposal also promised reports by March 15 on suggestions by the Technical Committee and Labour Ministry, and for their examination to be completed by the end of that month.

    According to the timetable, issues relating to compensation or alternative employment for surplus staff will be discussed by April 15.

    In its proposal to the workers, the Ministry gave assurances that the timetable would be honoured as much as possible and that whatever was agreed for lowering costs at Limassol harbour would also apply to Larnaca port.

    The 105 dockers and 45 stevedores had been striking since the beginning of the month over the uncertain future of the port and their consequent lack of work.

    The government recently announced that the port would be turned into a leisure harbour, sparking concern about the fate of surplus staff.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [09] Deputies approve abolition of death penalty

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE HOUSE plenum yesterday unanimously passed a bill abolishing the death penalty in Cyprus.

    The death penalty could, before yesterday's vote, still be imposed for convictions for high treason and piracy. The last time the death penalty was used in Cyprus was in 1963, when a man was hanged for murder.

    The abolition of the death penalty brings Cyprus into line with the 6th Protocol of the European Human Rights Convention.

    The same bill also includes an amendment raising the age of criminal liability from seven to ten.

    Another provision in the bill - tightening up the law on incest by making sex between related men illegal - was, on the recommendation of the committee that examined the bill, not approved by deputies.

    The amended bill was passed without debate.

    The plenum also unanimously approved a two-month extension of broadcasting licences for private media outlets.

    The extension was approved to allow the House interior committee time to consider a package of regulations imposing strict controls on sex and violence on television. The controversial regulations back up a bill licensing private broadcasters passed last year.

    Before the vote on the licences extension, Interior Committee chairman Nicos Katsourides told the plenum his committee was recommending approval of the extension under protest, because the back-up regulations had been tabled much later than stipulated by law.

    The 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. They also outlaw portrayals of sexual acts involving minors, acts of sadomasochism or sexual "abnormalities of any sort" on television.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [10] Bank of Cyprus 1998 profits up as share gains strength

    By Hamza Hendawi

    THE BANK of Cyprus yesterday posted a 21.4 per cent rise in 1998 operating profits to 65.3 million. It share, meanwhile, finished in positive territory for the second successive stock market session, rising by 22 cents to close at 5.40.

    The market as a whole closed at 116.05, up by 1.19 per cent on Wednesday's close. Share prices gained 1.08 per cent on Wednesday, snapping a three- session losing streak which saw shares shed a total of 8.73 per cent since Friday.

    As often is the case, yesterday's rally was largely on the back of bank stocks. The Popular Bank rose by 12 cents to close at 5.21 and Hellenic Bank rose slightly to end the day pegged at 3.12.

    Addressing a news conference, Bank of Cyprus Group Chairman Solon Triantafyllides said the bank would pay a final dividend of 12 per cent over and above an interim dividend of eight per cent paid out in 1998 and a one-off three per cent dividend to mark the institution's 100th anniversary.

    Net profit after a deduction of 19.6 million in bad debt provision and tax reached 31.2 million, rising 15.7 per cent, he said.

    "There was a significant increase in productivity as a result of automation and centralisation of operations... in conjunction with the successful policy of the group to contain costs," Triantafyllides said.

    A bank statement said the group's insurance business, operations in Britain and Greece and the economic turnaround in 1998, when GDP growth registered 5.0 per cent, also contributed to the rise.

    Plans to list the Bank of Cyprus shares on the Athens Stock Exchange were on track, Triantafyllides said.

    "Our decision stands to list our share on the Athens exchange as soon as possible," he said without giving details.

    The bank applied for a listing on the Greek bourse last October and Triantafyllides said the application was viewed favourably by Greek authorities.

    The listing, if it finally materialises, will give the shares a major boost and will entice the Popular Bank, the island's second largest financial institution after the Bank of Cyprus, to follow suit.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [11] Boy hospitalised with bacterial meningitis

    A TEENAGER suffering from bacterial meningitis was said to be in a satisfactory condition at Nicosia General hospital yesterday.

    The unnamed male gymnasium pupil from Lakatamia was rushed to hospital late on Wednesday night. A doctor treating him said yesterday that the boy appeared to have reached hospital in time for treatment to be administered and that he was satisfied with the patient's condition.

    Health ministry officials yesterday visited the Archangelos Gymnasium in Lakatamia, where the boy was a pupil and advised all students there of the symptoms. Students and teachers who had been in direct contact with the boy were all vaccinated.

    The school was expected to operate as normal today.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [12] Ukrainian woman killed in city crash

    A 21-YEAR-OLD Ukrainian woman was killed in a car accident in the early hours of yesterday morning.

    The accident happened at around 3.40am on Nicosia's Dimitris Vikelas Street: a car driven by Andreas Pirillos, 43, from Makedonitissa, in which Natalia Chorha was a passenger, left the road and overturned.

    Chorha was fatally injured, while the driver was seriously injured and a second passenger, Andreas Anastasiou, 46, from Ayios Omologites lightly injured.

    All three were taken to Nicosia General Hospital where Chorha was pronounced dead and the other two kept in for treatment.

    Nicosia traffic police are investigating the exact cause of the crash.

    Friday, February 19, 1999

    [13] Sixth education fair: a first-hand opportunity

    THE INTERNATIONAL Education Fair, an important event for future students from all over Cyprus, will take place for the sixth year on February 25.

    The four-day exhibition at Nicosia's International State Fair will include the participation of 121 tertiary institutions from 13 different countries.

    The chairman of the Cyprus State Fairs Authority, Demetris Ioannou, told a news conference yesterday that the exhibition "offers an opportunity for students, their parents and those involved in education to see at first hand the options offered in further education."

    Ioannou said the countries contributing to the Fair were the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Belarus, Hungary, Russia, Slovakia, Romania and Lebanon.

    Besides universities, colleges and technological institutes, the Fair will also host academic consultants, private secondary schools, foreign cultural centres, publishers and educational software companies.

    Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides told the same news conference that his Ministry's main goal was "to upgrade the quality of education and further expand on it."

    He added that the "five previous Fairs bear witness to its success and continual upgrading, which have turned the Fairs into an institution."

    The Fair will be open on Thursday (February 25) and Friday from 9am to 1pm and 5pm to 9pm and over the weekend from 4pm to 9pm. Entrance is free.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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