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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-07-14

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <>

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Wednesday, July 14, 1999


  • [01] Suspect stuns courthouse with murder confession
  • [02] Defence Minister on the ropes after new claims
  • [03] Three named to arbitrate in pilots' dispute
  • [04] Immigration under fire in Ombudsman's report
  • [05] Market back in records land
  • [06] CyTA boss blames government for 'messy liberalisation'
  • [07] Serezis slams Ecevit's 'mediaeval' politics
  • [08] Police concern at rethink on helmets
  • [09] Police defends actions as tourist jailed for 1.5g of cannabis
  • [10] Tourist hurt diving into pool
  • [11] Another celebrity holiday for Cyprus

  • [01] Suspect stuns courthouse with murder confession

    By Martin Hellicar

    "I did it," confessed one of the five suspects in the Hambis Aeroporos murder trial yesterday, turning proceedings on their head.

    The court had just re-convened after a short break when waiter Prokopis Prokopiou suddenly stood up and said the two men alongside him in the dock were innocent.

    "These two have nothing to do with the murder," he told the court, motioning to policeman Christos Symianos, 35, and ex-special policeman Savvas Ioannou, alias Kinezos, 33.

    "I did it... with two others," Prokopiou, 35, went on to tell a stunned Assizes court in Nicosia.

    "Why are you making this statement?" Michalis Fotiou, president of the three-judge bench, asked Prokopiou.

    "I want to confess, I'm tired of the trial, hassled, exhausted, and these two (Symianos and Kinezos) are suffering with me," the suspect, looking both resigned and unwell, replied.

    The high-profile trial began last month after Prokopiou, Symianos and Kinezos all pleaded not guilty to charges of gunning down Hambis Aeroporos in Limassol on December 16.

    Two other suspects -- cabaret owner Sotiris Athinis, 43, and his 51-year- old sister and hospital cleaner Zoe Alexandrou -- pleaded not guilty to lesser charges of conspiring to kill 36-year-old Hambis.

    Prokopiou's reference yesterday to "others" being involved in the vicious killing did not seem to point to Athinis or his sister. The court has already heard that Hambis was shot by two hooded hit-men.

    After the shock confession, Prokopiou's lawyer, Nicos Kallis, asked for a recess to allow him time to consult with his client. After a break of almost an hour, Kallis withdrew from the case.

    The court offered to find another lawyer for Prokopiou, but the suspect declined, insisting he just wanted to confess and did not wish to dispute the version of events presented by the prosecution.

    Prokopiou was then charged afresh, and pleaded guilty to charges of killing Hambis with a machine-gun. He denied charges of conspiring to kill Hambis and of attempting to kill the victim's cousin, Charalambos Onisiforou. Onisiforou, 29, was in Hambis's car when it was ambushed by gun-men on the Ypsonas to Limassol road on the morning of December 16.

    The cousin, who escaped unharmed, has testified before the court that he saw one of the hit-men remove his hood and that he looked like Symianos. Symianos's lawyer, deputy Christos Pourgourides, disputed this testimony, saying the description of the hit-man Onisiforou gave to police soon after the murder did not match that of his client.

    The trial continues today.

    Hambis' murder is thought to have been part of an ongoing turf war between rival underworld gangs vying for control of the lucrative cabaret circuit -- often seen as a front for gambling, prostitution and drugs rackets.

    Before the fatal December attack, Hambis had survived another machine-gun attack in Limassol in June 1995.

    His younger brother, Andros, 32, was gunned down outside Limassol's Show Palace cabaret in July 1998.

    Just eight weeks earlier, Aeroporos brothers Hambis, Andros and Panicos, 26, had been acquitted of the May 1997 attempted murder of Larnaca gambling club owner Antonis Fanieros.

    The Hambis murder trial was moved to Nicosia for fear of reprisals against the suspects. Armed police are out in force for every hearing.

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    Wednesday, July 14, 1999

    [02] Defence Minister on the ropes after new claims

    By Charlie Charalambous

    THE NATIONAL Guard was rocked by more shock revelations yesterday, when an Akel deputy claimed the army had only 20 per cent of its ammunition war supplies in stock.

    "War reserves are down to one fifth... anyone trying to say it's only ammunition used for exercises is lying and they know it," Akel's Doros Christodoulides told CyBC radio.

    The indictment of the military's battle-readiness comes on the eve of the July 20 "black anniversary" to mark 25 years of the Turkish invasion.

    With the island still divided by the cease-fire line drawn up in 1974, the National Guard should -- in theory -- remain on a war footing against the vastly superior forces of the Turkish occupation army in the north.

    Christodoulides' damning accusation not only harms the National Guard's credibility as a fighting force, but flies in the face of government efforts to gag politicians from leaking defence secrets.

    Following last week's furore over the Russian T-80 fuel fiasco and the shortage of bullets row, President Clerides backed calls to punish those who spilled military information.

    "We must enforce restrictions which apply to defence and prevent information leaks," Defence Minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis told reporters yesterday.

    Ever since the media's daily ritual of divulging classified information on the controversial Russian S-300 missiles, the Clerides administration has been itching to silence its critics.

    "We must have a law which makes clear what we can and can't say in public and end this tragic situation," Chrysostomis said yesterday.

    But it was the House Defence Committee member who blamed the minister for the woeful state of the armed forces and for allowing the National Guard to go to seed.

    "The minister is clueless and I mean that," said Christodoulides.

    The deputy said Chrysostomis had gone before the defence committee pleading for emergency approval of funds to buy ammunition from a Greek company, Pyrkal, even though it was "33 times more expensive than the other tender".

    "'Give us your emergency approval because ammunition is at only one-fifth battle readiness levels,' he informed us," Christodoulides said, seemingly wanting to embarrass the minister further.

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    Wednesday, July 14, 1999

    [03] Three named to arbitrate in pilots' dispute

    By Jean Christou

    NO LESS than three arbitrators have been appointed to resolve the dispute over pilots' promotions in Cyprus Airways' charter firm Eurocypria.

    Under normal labour procedures, one arbitrator, who's word is final, is appointed to resolve disputes, but Cyprus Airways pilots union Pasipy insisted on three.

    The arbitrators appointed yesterday are Takis Papamiltiades, a lawyer and former chairman of the Labour Court, Xanthos Clerides, also a lawyer, and Ioannis Papadopoulos, a judge.

    "We wanted three because we consider the issue to be serious and we feel the result will seriously affect the future of the pilots in general within the Cyprus Airways (CY) group," said Pasipy spokesman George Charalambous.

    "We thought if there were three there would be a chance to see the matter from a better perspective."

    The arbitrators have been given 21 days to decide who should be given the captain vacancy in Eurocypria -- the charter firm's own pilots or Pasipy members.

    Their appointment has spared CY and the government from taking the responsibility of deciding who should get the job, and facing the risk of another crippling strike by Pasipy.

    Last month, when CY advertised the vacancy, Pasipy's 100 pilots staged two strikes in one week, which affected some 15,000 passengers.

    A collective agreement with Eurocypria pilots says the job should be filled from their own ranks, but Pasipy says a later agreement they have with the company to discuss common seniority supersedes the collective agreement until a dialogue on the issue is completed. CY says the dialogue collapsed in early June.

    Options to solve the dispute suggested by the Ministry were rejected by all unions, which gave the government no choice but to refer it to arbitration.

    "We hope that the results will be balanced and fair for everyone," said Pasipy's Charalambous.

    He admitted that it was unusual to have three mediators appointed, but said it had happened before. "In matters as important as this we feel it's better, because it will not give anyone the chance to say the arbitrator was influenced," Charalambous said.

    He said Pasipy would appoint its own lawyers to present their case to the arbitrators.

    Eurocypria pilots will also be preparing their case, their representative Constantinos Pitsillides said yesterday.

    "We are not sitting back and relaxing," he said. "There is a lot of preparation to do. We have to present our case."

    CY said it did not wish to comment. "It seems all sides have agreed to the procedure."

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    Wednesday, July 14, 1999

    [04] Immigration under fire in Ombudsman's report

    THE HEALTH Ministry and Immigration and Land Registry departments have been named and shamed in the Ombudsman's 1998 report.

    Immigration authorities are guilty of deporting foreign women solely because they get involved with local men, Ombudsman Iliana Nicolaou states in her annual report. And the land registry once again heads the league table of citizens' complaints.

    Nicolaou, appointed to the office in December, yesterday handed her annual report to President Clerides.

    It records that a total of the 947 complaints about state departments and organisations were submitted to the Ombudsman's office by citizens last year. Of these, 602 had been investigated by the end of the year, and 233 had been deemed well-founded, Nicolaou notes.

    The health ministry, land registry and immigration services are top offenders in the Ombudsman's book for 1998.

    "The Immigration Department... seems to be facing problems of disfunction and inability... to meet the volume of nature of the work before it," Nicolaou notes.

    "A significant number of the complaints submitted against the Immigration Department concern its handling of issues concerning foreigners, mainly workers," she adds.

    "It was found that in many cases decisions had been taken by an unauthorised organ or that there were deportations, of women mainly, because they had developed a relationship with Cypriots...," the Ombudsman states.

    Many complaints were submitted against the Health Ministry, Nicolaou states. These mainly concerned failure to provide adequate medical supplies, failure to provide treatment abroad for needy patients and unsatisfactory therapy at the Nicosia general hospital.

    "The Land Registry department continues to accrue the largest number of complaints from citizens, concerning delays in dealing with their applications," Nicolaou states.

    "These delays often exceed three or four years," she notes.

    Nicolaou adds that delays at the Land registry have been given particular mention in every Ombudsman's report since 1991 -- when the position of Ombudsman was created.

    The report also notes that the overall number of complaints is down by 22 per cent compared to 1997, when a record 1,225 complaints were submitted. But Nicolaou notes that this is at least partly due to the fact that the office was vacant for a month and a half between the departure of her predecessor, Nicos Charalambous, and her appointment.

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    Wednesday, July 14, 1999

    [05] Market back in records land

    THE MARKET returned to its record-setting ways yesterday, when share prices powered their way to a new all-time high with heavy trade on the Bank of Cyprus and Nicos Shacolas' two commercial titles.

    The all-share index closed at 175.35, 2.27 per cent up on Monday's close, with a volume worth 16.29 million. It was the bourse's fourth consecutive close in positive territory.

    Bank of Cyprus shot up by 22 cents to close at 7.35 in a volume worth 1.31 million, while the rival Popular Bank closed six cents up at 4.04.

    In the trading sector, Shacolas' Woolworth and CTC were slightly up at 1.21 and 2.15 respectively, but attracted a combined 2.26 million in trade.

    Orphanides Supermarkets, the only other title in the sector, was up six cents to close at 1.31.

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    Wednesday, July 14, 1999

    [06] CyTA boss blames government for 'messy liberalisation'

    By Jean Christou

    CYTA Chairman Michalakis Zivanaris yesterday accused the government of "messy liberalisation" in the field of telecommunications.

    "The reason I said messy is because they should have begun liberalisation with a regulator who would define everything," Zivanaris said. "We can't go against it," the CyTA chief added, referring to the liberalisation of the telecommunications sector next year.

    "The time remaining for preparation is so little that there is no longer room for further delays, endless discussion or pointless arguments."

    He said being prepared was the key to everything. "New developments in the telecommunications sector have added a new dimension to the meaning of the word 'preparations'".

    Zivanaris was speaking at CyTA's AGM in Nicosia yesterday, where he announced a post-tax surplus of 39 million for 1998, over 12 million up on 1997.

    Total revenues increased by 21.1 million, or 17 per cent, to reach 146.5 million, while expenses for the year totalled 96.5 million, an increase of 6 million or seven per cent.

    Zivanaris said 1998 was "yet another successful year".

    "You can be sure, however, that our achievements do not make us complacent, " he said. "There can be no doubt that all of us in Cyprus have realised the need for change. Change is needed now. It's time for us to move from words to action and for steps to be taken where this is imperative."

    Zivanaris went on to international competition, which he said threatened CyTA and which in certain sectors "already has one foot in the door".

    He called for a new legal framework for CyTA in order for it to move in a "fast, flexible, dynamic and determined way in a liberalised telecommunications environment".

    As a first step in this direction, Zivanaris spoke of the need to rebalance tariffs between local and international calls.

    He also attacked the government for its proposal to up mobile phone tax by five per cent.

    By the end of 1998, the CyTA GSM service had a total of 108,183 subscribers, which means 16 out of every 100 Cypriots has a mobile phone. Also during the year, the number of direct lines reached 404,710 -- 60.7 per 100 of the population -- with 92 per cent of the authority's customers connected to the digital network.

    "We are making preparations for Europe. We have understood the messages of the times," Zivanaris said. "Cyprus can have a place in tomorrow's telecommunications world... now the state must play its part as well."

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    Wednesday, July 14, 1999

    [07] Serezis slams Ecevit's 'mediaeval' politics

    GOVERNMENT spokesman Costas Serezis yesterday said that Turkey's "mediaeval" views on the solution of international issues using force did not conform with international law.

    Serezis was commenting on statements made by Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit that the Cyprus problem had been solved with the 1974 Turkish invasion.

    The government spokesman said that Ecevit "expresses views which do not conform either with international law nor with the way in which states think in the 20th century."

    "The mediaeval theory that one country has the right through the use of force to solve international issues is something that should concern Europe, if it wants Turkey to join its ranks."

    Serezis noted it was Ecevit himself who had ordered the Turkish invasion and wondered why, if the problem had been solved as Ecevit claimed, "are the UN, the European Union, the Group of Eight, the Non-Aligned Movement and the Commonwealth," involved in efforts for a solution?

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    Wednesday, July 14, 1999

    [08] Police concern at rethink on helmets

    POLICE have begun fining motorists for violating new traffic laws -- except for those requiring the use of helmets on mopeds, Cyprus Police Traffic Chief George Voutounos said yesterday.

    The House of Representatives is set to take up the matter of helmets and mopeds today in an extraordinary Plenum session at the request of the communist Akel Party.

    Pending the outcome of today's House session, the Police department has extended the 12-day grace period for the enforcing the new moped-helmet law.

    The department originally granted a 12-day grace period for enforcing all the new traffic rules, despite their effect on July 1, to let motorists get used to them. Instead of tickets, police have been handing out warnings from July 1 through July 11.

    The extended grace period, while the House takes up the matter, is "only about mopeds. Everything except the regulation concerning helmets for the drivers of mopeds and the passengers" is being enforced, Voutounos said.

    This includes:

    - 30 fines for using a mobile phone, or eating or drinking while driving; both hands must be on the wheel

    - 30 fines for not wearing a helmet while on a motorcycle, whether driver or pillion

    - 15 fines for carrying a passenger in front of the driver of a motorcycle or moped, or carrying a passenger under age 12

    - 30 fines for having any but factory-issued ram-bars on four-wheel-drive vehicles.

    The Akel amendment under House consideration would exempt drivers of mopeds under 50cc from wearing helmets in built-up areas, while requiring helmets on highways or in the countryside.

    Akel asked for the House rehearing on grounds helmets are very uncomfortable in the summer heat, and that mopeds under 50cc do not go fast and are driven mostly by elderly people.

    Voutounos said he opposed the prospect that the House might water-down the new helmet laws to exempt moped drivers.

    "I strongly believe the driver of mopeds and the passenger must wear helmets," he said, adding that the injury risk was borne out "according to our statistics, which we sent to Parliament."

    But he assured, "Only the regulations for mopeds and pillion riders on mopeds are being discussed. We've implemented all the other regulations without problem."

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    Wednesday, July 14, 1999

    [09] Police defends actions as tourist jailed for 1.5g of cannabis

    By Charlie Charalambous

    A NORWEGIAN tourist was yesterday sentenced to nearly seven weeks behind bars for possessing less than two grammes of cannabis.

    Twenty-four-year-old Frode Holmen is the latest in a long line drug offenders to be jailed by a Larnaca court for possession of relatively small amounts of soft drugs.

    Police have kept their zero tolerance battle against drugs at a high profile these last few weeks, and the courts seem to be backing their campaign with stiffer sentences.

    For drug possession, the length of sentence does vary according to the age of the accused (for those under 25, penalties should be more lenient) and depending on the amount found and whether it was soft or hard drugs.

    Drug trafficking carries a maximum sentence of life, while supply is punishable by 14 years imprisonment, but many question whether tourists should be hauled up before the courts for possessing small amounts of cannabis.

    "We are obliged to prevent crime and it's up to the courts to apply the law, " police spokesman Stelios Neophytou told the Cyprus Mail.

    He said the police couldn't just turn a blind eye to tourists using recreational drugs because they would be accused of trying to cover illegal behaviour.

    Neophytou said a "political decision" had to be taken on whether it was worth the time and expense to bring tourists to justice for smoking the odd joint while on holiday.

    "If we start allowing people to use small quantities of drugs then we are on a slippery slope," Neophytou warned.

    Police chief Andreas Angelides has suggested that drugs offences have been on the rise because the force had dropped its guard in the past.

    Angelides also wants to deploy more manpower in catching drug dealers, and offering addicts rehabilitation instead of jail.

    Holmen yesterday pleaded guilty to possessing 1.5 grammes of cannabis, after he was stopped by police outside an Ayia Napa disco at 3am on July 5. He was jailed for 45 days.

    He had only arrived on the island -- for a two week holiday -- hours before his arrest.

    But the Norwegian may in fact be lucky that he was caught in Cyprus, as back in his home country the authorities enforce even more draconian prison terms.

    "Even for this small amount, he could have expected up to three years in prison in Norway," a Norwegian journalist told the Cyprus Mailyesterday.

    [10] Tourist hurt diving into pool

    AN IRISH tourist was seriously injured in the early hours yesterday when he hit his head diving into an Ayia Napa club's swimming pool.

    Following the 2.30am accident, Thomas Neil Gray, 21, was taken to a private clinic with head injuries and then, due to the seriousness of his condition, to Nicosia general hospital.

    Ayia Napa police are investigating the exact circumstances of the accident and were unable to release any further details late yesterday afternoon.

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    Wednesday, July 14, 1999

    [11] Another celebrity holiday for Cyprus

    By Athena Karsera

    CYPRUS has proved to be favourite holiday destination for another British celebrity, with Birds of a Featherstar Linda Robson set to visit the island next month.

    Robson and her three children Lauren, 16, Louis, seven, and three-year old Bobbie will be staying in a rented two-bed room apartment in Paphos, Britain's tabloid Sunhas reported.

    They will also be joined by Robson's younger sister Debbie, who has another apartment in Paphos.

    Robson, 41, and her family have been making return visits to the island over the last eight years, turning their annual break into a reunion with family and friends.

    According to the Sun, Robson says "We always meet up with the same families from Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Scotland... The kids have all grown up with each other and become great friends. We all look forward to going the same time every year. We sit and relax by the pool and catch up on what everyone's been doing over the year. The local restaurants serve great food and there's always a fantastic atmosphere wherever you go."

    Duran Duran frontman Simon Le Bon, his model wife Yasmin and their children spent part of their summer holidays in Paphos last year, while international tennis star Martina Hingis and Welsh international football player Mark Hughes were spotted holidaying in Limassol and Paphos earlier this year. Summer 1998 saw a rash of claimed sightings of Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio, though none of them were ever confirmed.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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