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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-25

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

Thursday, February 25, 1999


  • [01] Clerides rebuffs claims that Cyprus trains the PKK
  • [02] 'CY risked baby's life by refusing seat on overbooked flight'
  • [03] 'Supermarket owner paid would-be killer with groceries'
  • [04] Pefkos Kurds on hunger strike
  • [05] MPs go to prison to probe corruption claims
  • [06] Cabinet backs health plan ahead of civil service strike
  • [07] New sympathy strike backs hotel pickets
  • [08] Cook: Britain working hard to reduce tensions
  • [09] Miller to quit Cyprus job?
  • [10] Denktash donkey comments spark row in occupied areas
  • [11] Government reassures refugees living in Turkish Cypriot property
  • [12] Anastassiades guard did not die of meningitis

  • [01] Clerides rebuffs claims that Cyprus trains the PKK

    CYPRUS is not a breeding ground for Kurdish guerillas, President Clerides said yesterday in a forthright denial of accusations from Ankara.

    "The claims are totally unfounded," Clerides said during a visit to a Greek army camp in Malounda.

    Clerides issued his categorical denial following claims by Turkey that Cyprus housed Kurdish military training camps.

    This is not the first time the Turkish government has made such allegations, but their political impact has taken on greater significance in the wake of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan's capture.

    "In Cyprus, there is a United Nations peacekeeping force which has freedom of movement. If such camps existed they would not have escaped Unficyp's notice," Clerides said.

    And he added that diplomats on the island would easily have discovered the whereabouts of such camps if the allegations were true.

    The government was willing to invite any independent observers to check the ground for themselves, he added.

    "If European countries wish to send representatives to travel freely throughout Cyprus, they too will establish that the accusations that Turkey has levelled against Cyprus are totally unfounded," said Clerides.

    Turkey accuses Cyprus and Greece of being actively involved in supporting what it describes as Kurdish terrorism.

    The government has backed the EU's position that Ocalan should be given a fair trial attended by international observers.

    "Of particular importance is the European Union's strict opposition to the death penalty and the expectation that Turkey will resolve its problems by political means with full respect for human rights," a government statement said on Tuesday.

    Turkey was also taken to task over its attempts publicly to humiliate Ocalan by presenting him on television gagged and bound and standing nervously in front of the Turkish flag.

    "The Cyprus government, moreover, deplores Turkey's attempt to make propaganda capital out of the issue, expresses its abhorrence at the manner in which the captive Kurdish leader was paraded in front of the Turkish television cameras and stresses the need that Abdullah Ocalan is treated humanely."

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [02] 'CY risked baby's life by refusing seat on overbooked flight'

    CYPRUS Airways (CY) risked the life of a seven-month-old baby travelling to London for open-heart surgery by refusing the infant and his family the seats they had booked on a flight to Heathrow, the Association of Parents and Friends of Child Heart Patients claimed yesterday.

    When the family, from Dhali village, went to Larnaca airport last Friday afternoon to catch the 18.15 CY326 flight to London, they were told by CY staff that only one seat was available on the plane as the flight was overbooked, the Association claimed in an announcement yesterday.

    The ailing baby was due to check in to the Harley Clinic Hospital at midday the next day for an operation scheduled for Monday.

    The parents were offered a single seat on the CY326 flight and told one of them could take the sick baby with them. An alternative flight, via Zurich the next day, was offered to the other parent.

    The distressed parents refused to travel separately and, while they argued with check-in staff, the baby got chilled and started vomiting, jeopardising its readiness for open-heart surgery, the association stated.

    The association described CY's behaviour as "criminal".

    Association chairman Savvas Socratous said the parents were eventually forced to catch CY's 18.15 flight the day after and did not manage to get the baby to the Harley clinic till 10pm on Saturday night, ten hours late.

    "The operation went ahead and was, happily, a success but Cyprus Airways caused untold worry to the parents," he said.

    Socratous said the airline had blamed the couple for the mix-up, claiming they had not turned up to check-in for the Friday flight until 20 minutes before the plane was due to take off. This was completely untrue, Socratous said - the couple had turned up an hour-and-a-half before flying time.

    Many other travellers booked on the Friday flight were also turned away by check-in staff, the association stated.

    No-one was available for comment from CY yesterday.

    The association is calling on Attorney-general Alecos Markides to take action against those at the national carrier responsible for the family's woes.

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [03] 'Supermarket owner paid would-be killer with groceries'

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A WOULD-BE hired killer was paid with goods off the supermarket shelf to murder the older lover of the owner's cheating wife, a court heard yesterday.

    Thirty-two-year-old painter Demetris Gavriel, from Larnaca, was allegedly allowed to fill his shopping trolley with the usual biscuits, toilet paper and frozen foods as part of a contract killing.

    According to Gavriel - also known as Billy - he was promised 5,000 in food and cash by Mazotos supermarket owner Kyriacos Vassiliou, 40, police said yesterday.

    Vassiliou had offered the sum to Gavriel to kill his wife's older live-in lover, 53-year-old taverna chef Pavlos Anastasis, from Kiti, whom he blamed for his marriage break-up.

    The 36-year-old wife, who is now eight months pregnant, left Vassiliou in January 1998 to live with the British-born romeo.

    Police said that Billy had gone to Anastasis' home on February 19 and revealed that he had been hired to kill him on account of his affair.

    Both Gavriel and Vassiliou were brought before a Larnaca district court yesterday and remanded for five days on suspicion of conspiracy to commit murder.

    The pair were arrested on Tuesday after Anastasis went to the police and told them of his unwanted visitor.

    Larnaca CID said that, when questioned, Gavriel apparently confessed to receiving goods from the Mazotos supermarket - over a period of time - and cash to the tune of 5,000 to murder Anastasis.

    Investigating officer Mamas Parpas told the court that Billy, being down on his luck, had been introduced to Vassiliou by a mutual friend.

    The court also heard that Billy advised his alleged victim, "to disappear off the face of the earth" so he could convince Vassiliou that the job had been done.

    Billy had told this to Anastasis because Vassiliou still owed him 600 of the total to be paid on proof that the contract had been carried out, Parpas said.

    In a police statement, Vassiliou denied that he offered payment of any kind to Billy to murder Anastasis.

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [04] Pefkos Kurds on hunger strike

    By Anthony O. Miller

    AT LEAST 10 of the 24 boat people still under police guard in the Pefkos Hotel in Limassol yesterday threatened to stay on a hunger strike until the government finds "a resolution to our case."

    They faxed their threat in a letter yesterday to the Ministries of Justice and Interior, a copy of which was sent to the Cyprus Mail. It was signed by 10 adults among the 24 boat people still living under police guard in the Pefkos since coming to Cyprus last June 29.

    The 24 were among 113 illegal immigrants rescued by Cyprus, sick and starving, from an overcrowded Syrian trawler off the island's coast.

    Their letter gave their "thanks (to the) Cyprus government for aid and approval to save our life. But from the date we entered Cyprus, we are under house arrest in (the) Pefkos Hotel. Police watch us day and night, don't allow us to go out. And sometimes they don't allow our visitors to visit us," they said.

    "We are not criminals, murderers or burglars. Most of us have families and children. We request (the) Cyprus Government, Cyprus Parliament, and the Human Rights Organisation to help us to find a resolution immediately to our problem," they wrote.

    "The signatories below will be on hunger-strike from February 23 up to the time you find a resolution to our case," the letter declared. Ten adults signed the letter.

    The immigrants were all initially put up at the Pefkos, but a group of mostly black Africans were moved from there to cellblocks in the old Famagusta detention centre or nearby Larnaca jail after disturbances - involving alleged police brutality - at the Pefkos last July.

    Most of those transferred from the Pefkos were denied refugee status and have since been deported. Police could not say last night how many of these remained in detention.

    In December, 23 of the the Pefkos residents - 10 Bangladeshis and 13 Kurds - were granted refugee status by the government, after screening by UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officers.

    Sharon Barnard, the new UNHCR Head of Liaison in Cyprus, yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that the 24 boat people still at the Pefkos had been denied refugee status after UNHCR screening.

    "They have appealed," however, she said, "so we are going to submit the files, with a letter requesting the appeal," to the UNHCR in Geneva on Monday. "I will advise Geneva that this is a matter of some urgency, and we will try to get it all seen to in the very near future," she said. "I cannot give you a firm date" for any response from Geneva, she added.

    Barnard, who has been in Cyprus less than two weeks, said she was aware of the hunger strike, which the Pefkos boat people said they began on Tuesday.

    "I got the impression that as a result of my speaking to (one of them yesterday) that he would talk to his colleagues," about stopping the fast, she said, adding she would again contact them again to try to dissuade them from keeping their hunger-strike.

    "I think we're all concerned about the wellbeing of all the individuals there, and I think UNHCR and the government would want to resolve the issue as quickly and as harmoniously as possible," Barnard said. "If they're on hunger strike, we have to try the best means to resolve the issue."

    One of the hunger-strikers, Nahad Hage, who told the Cyprus Mail he was an Iraqi Kurd, said the hunger strikers comprised eight Iraqi Kurds, one Iraqi Arab and one Lebanese woman. He said the half-dozen or so children among them were not fasting.

    Hage said he and his compatriots feared returning to Iraq. "We all want to stay here, or (be) sent to another country except Iraq. If we go back to Iraq, we will see many problems with the government.

    "Most of us are members of parties. These parties were against the government, and this makes problems for us because the government wants to catch us. If they catch us, we don't know anything about what they will do to us," he said.

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [05] MPs go to prison to probe corruption claims

    CONCERNED about allegations that Nicosia's Central Prison was run by mafia gangs and corrupt wardens, the House Ad Hoc Crime Committee yesterday went to see for itself.

    Members of the committee were given a tour of the prison by governor George Anastassiades to investigate first-hand what the special problems were.

    Deputies were also informed by the police command that allegations were being investigated that long-term inmates and prison wardens were colluding either to help escapes or arrange crimes on the outside.

    "We have been informed that all allegations are being investigated and some are in progress, so I can't comment any further," committee chairman Aristofanis Georgiou said yesterday.

    Georgiou said one investigation concerning corrupt wardens co-operating with inmates was being pursued by police.

    Convicts belonging to rivals gangs inside the prison are reported to be threatening to "wipe each other out".

    Furthermore, it is alleged that gangland hits are being planned from inside the prison cells to be executed on the outside.

    The authorities are worried about lax prison security and the ease with which banned items like drugs or mobile phones are finding their way into the prison.

    Overcrowding is a major cause for friction on the inside and the government is looking at ways to ease tensions by separating known troublemakers from the rest of the prison population.

    A scheme has been introduced to allow petty criminals early release to try and get the prison population down below 300 and nearer to its capacity of around 200.

    There are plans to extend the prison in order for lifers and long-term prisoners to be isolated from those who have in for less serious offences, like unpaid bills.

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [06] Cabinet backs health plan ahead of civil service strike

    By Andrew Adamides

    CONTROVERSIAL National Health Scheme plans were yesterday officially approved by the cabinet and legislation paving the way for the scheme will be tabled at the House today.

    Health Minister Christos Solomis said yesterday the bill should be approved within a year to 18 months. At least five years are necessary to prepare for the scheme's introduction, he added.

    An independent body is to be set up to run the scheme. Employers and employees will both make contributions to the plan, which is estimated to cost around 200 million a year.

    "Both the President of the Republic and the Council of Ministers believe that it is an absolute necessity to modernise and upgrade the health services," Solomis said.

    But he blasted as "unnecessary and inexcusable" plans by public sector employees to strike for two hours today in protest at the scheme.

    The strike will take place between 11.30am and 1.30pm. Almost the entire civil service, including teachers at government schools, will stop work. Children attending government schools were yesterday given letters for their parents informing than that the schools would be closing at 11.30 am.

    A skeleton staff will remain at hospitals and at the civil aviation department. The police will remain at work, although the Police Association supports the strike action.

    Civil servants are claiming that they have not been adequately consulted over the proposed scheme. They are also concerned that, if the scheme is implemented, they may have to pay out more in contributions than they already pay to union health schemes.

    Public sector union Pasydy has expressed concern that if the National Health Scheme is implemented, the healthcare workers it represents may suffer a deterioration in their working conditions.

    Government doctors are in favour of the health scheme, but are no longer represented by Pasydy after forming their own breakaway union last year.

    Solomis has said he would not allow civil servants to hold the bill hostage or prevent it going through, although he has not ruled out negotiations and says the government will ensure their needs are catered for.

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [07] New sympathy strike backs hotel pickets

    By Athena Karsera

    STRIKE action spread to all the hotels in the Famagusta district for two hours yesterday in sympathy over a dispute at two Larnaca hotels.

    The strikes began at 10 am and involved all hotel workers belonging to the Sek and Peo unions.

    The strikers gathered in Ayia Napa and condemned the behaviour of Constantinos Lordos, president of Lordos Holdings, which owns the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels at the centre of the dispute.

    The unions are demanding the reinstatement of 73 hotel workers who lost their jobs when several sections of the hotels were turned over to private contractors as part of a cost-cutting plan.

    Speaking on state radio, Sek hotel representative Nicos Epistethiou said the workers had "understood the danger to their rights."

    Also speaking on CyBC, Peo's Lefteris Georgiades said that the unions had been careful to organise the strike at a time that would not affect the hotels' customers to a great extent.

    He said workers understood the problems faced in the hotel industry, but that they had no other way to protect their rights.

    Yesterday's action saw the Famagusta hotel workers visiting the strikers at the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels in Larnaca.

    The Larnaca pickets, into day 26 of their strike yesterday, were also visited by Akel's secretary-general, Demetris Christofias.

    Addressing the strikers, Christofias said: "We have to give the workers the message that they are not alone, that a big political and social force like Akel is naturally at their side."

    He said Akel would give its support to the workers "until the management is forced... to sit with them and talk about all the issues and solve the problem."

    In response, Lordos said that the hotels' management had always acted well within its legal limits.

    He said workers had the right to strike and that anyone who wanted to support them also had that right.

    Further sympathy strikes are planned at Limassol hotels today and in Paphos tomorrow. Strike action at all Nicosia hotels is planned for Monday.

    Lordos is refusing to enter talks about anything more than helping redundant staff find other jobs. The unions want unconditional discussions and for Lordos to take back the dismissed staff.

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [08] Cook: Britain working hard to reduce tensions

    BRITAIN is working closely with the United Nations, the EU and the United States for a reduction of tension in Cyprus, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook has said.

    In a letter to the President of the Federation of UK Cypriots, Haris Sophoclides, Cook said that Britain was working diligently for the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1,218, which calls for tension on the island to be reduced and for an overall Cyprus settlement.

    He added that London strongly endorsed resolution 1,218 and was "working closely with the UN, our EU partners and the US to achieve the full implementation of this resolution."

    British High Commissioner David Madden met with President Glafcos Clerides earlier in the week to discuss the resolution.

    The Foreign Secretary also said that the government's decision not to deploy the S-300 missiles had been "a significant contribution to international efforts, in which Britain plays a prominent part, to reduce tension in the region".

    He added that Britain would be "active in encouraging both sides to co- operate in a constructive and flexible manner with Kofi Annan and his deputy, Special Representative Dame Ann Hercus."

    Hercus is currently conducting shuttle talks between the two sides. Cook was replying to a letter sent by Sophoclides to British Prime Minister Tony Blair late in January.

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [09] Miller to quit Cyprus job?

    UNCONFIRMED reports yesterday suggested that US State Department Co- ordinator on Cyprus Thomas Miller may be vacating his post.

    The Cyprus News Agency (CNA) quoted sources as saying that Miller would be moving on to an ambassadorial post in Bosnia.

    On Tuesday, Miller in Washington met with British Representative on Cyprus, Sir David Hannay and other US officials dealing with the Cyprus question. No details emerged from the meeting, except that the officials had exchanged views on the current situation on the island.

    Hannay later met with US Under-secretary for Political Affairs, Thomas Pickering. The meetings followed talks on Monday between the visiting British diplomat and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [10] Denktash donkey comments spark row in occupied areas

    TURKISH Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash has sparked a row in the occupied areas with the aid of the traditional Cyprus donkey.

    According to Turkish press reports, Denktash told a party of visiting German academics that the Greek Cypriot side neither wanted nor needed a Cyprus settlement, and that there was no one people that could be described as Cypriot.

    "There is only one animal species that can be called Cypriot, and that is the donkey," Denktash added.

    The donkey comment has not gone down well with Turkish Republican Party leader Mehmet Ali Talat, who accused Denktash of making asses of the Turkish Cypriots.

    Speaking on Tuesday, Talat blasted Denktash, saying the comments were an "insult to the Turkish Cypriots and the Turkish Cypriot people".

    "There exists no president in the world who can brand his people donkeys and who can hold such a grudge and utter such insults. Had there been one, the people would not allow him to continue occupying that post."

    Talat concluded that "these words of Denktash will be inscribed in the annals of history: A president who insulted his people."

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [11] Government reassures refugees living in Turkish Cypriot property

    THE ATTORNEY-GENERAL and Interior Minister yesterday gave assurances that refugees currently living in abandoned Turkish Cypriot houses would not be thrown out.

    Alecos Markides and Dinos Michaelides were talking to reporters after yesterday's Cabinet meeting, responding to concerns following a proposed change in the law on Turkish Cypriot property.

    Reports say the changes in the law could include provisions allowing certain Turkish Cypriots to regain their property in the free areas, leaving Greek Cypriot refugees with nowhere to live.

    The Interior Ministry prepared the proposal after a suggestion by Attorney- General Markides.

    But Markides said yesterday there was "no danger that any refugee living in any (Turkish Cypriot) property will be thrown out at this time."

    He said there was a need for a amendment to the relevant law "in order to prevent doubts or misunderstandings... in relation to the Constitution and our international obligations."

    Markides said that the change would reflect Cyprus' agreement that Turkish Cypriot properties were being protected and that, when there was a solution to the Cyprus problem, the Turkish Cypriots would get their property in the free areas back.

    Michaelides said a change in the law was necessary because Turkish Cypriots who had been living overseas for some time before the invasion and had left property behind had to be taken into account.

    The proposed changes are thought to affect Turkish Cypriots who lived abroad during the invasion and continue to live overseas, those who lived abroad during the invasion and afterwards came to live in the free areas, Turkish Cypriots who left the Republic after the invasion to live overseas and continued to do so, and those who at any time lived in the free areas, excluding Turkish Cypriots who now live in the occupied areas.

    A report accompanying the proposal is understood to have said the change was necessary because of the rising number of Turkish Cypriots bringing complaints against Cyprus before the Council of Europe.

    The Turkish Cypriots claim that their rights involving the free enjoyment of their property are being violated.

    The European Court of Human Rights recently ruled against Turkey in favour of Kyrenia refugee Titina Loizidou, who argued that Turkey was violating her property rights.

    Thursday, February 25, 1999

    [12] Anastassiades guard did not die of meningitis

    Dr Marios Matsakis, MP and forensic pathologist, yesterday said Xenios Panayides, a 25-year-old police guard for Disy president Nicos Anastassiades, died of an acute heart infection, and not meningitis as some had initially suspected.

    "No it isn't meningitis," Matsakis said of what killed Panayides early yesterday. "I think what he had was a viral infection which also affected the cardiac muscle."

    "He had what is known as myocarditis, an infection of the cardiac muscle. It's a known, but rare complication of infections in other parts of the body, particularly of infections like tonsillitis," which Matsakis said Panayides initially fell ill from.

    Panayides was taken to Limassol General Hospital on Saturday by colleagues after coming down with a high fever, which Matsakis said was due to "acute tonsillitis."

    His condition worsened the next day, so his parents transferred him to a private clinic. He appeared to improve - his temperature dropped and he said he felt better. But early yesterday his fever soared to 42 degrees Celsius and he complained of chest pains.

    Despite immediate treatment by doctors, he died at 6am from what Matsakis said "appeared to be an acute cardiac episode."

    "There was nothing to see at the autopsy, so I have taken specimens for microscopy and for special investigation," Matsakis said.

    However, he stressed he found no signs of meningitis during the autopsy, adding it would be some two weeks before all his laboratory results were in.

    Anastassiades has gone to express his condolences to the family of Panayides, who was engaged to be married in June.

    His funeral is being held today.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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