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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-02-23

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Friday, February 23, 2001

CONTENTS

  • [01] Markides calls for probe into claims that police beat up gypsies
  • [02] Officials insist special needs measures will be in place by September
  • [03] Hasikos: radar problems all sorted out
  • [04] Turkish crisis spills over into the occupied north
  • [05] House rejects DISY calls to change election date
  • [06] Helios takes over Sofia flights as Balkan goes into liquidation
  • [07] Concern over summary deportation of Iranian family
  • [08] Cyprus bars British meat imports
  • [09] Health Ministry hits back at foundry policy critics
  • [10] Tsiakourmas family organise rally for his release

  • [01] Markides calls for probe into claims that police beat up gypsies

    By a Staff Reporter ATTORNEY-general Alecos Markides yesterday proposed an independent probe into Turkish Cypriot press reports that a group of gypsies who crossed from the north into the government-held areas earlier this week was abused by Cyprus police before being dumped back near the buffer zone.

    The UN is also looking into the disturbing reports.

    Turkish Cypriot papers claimed yesterday that 26 gypsies from the occupied Famagusta district had crossed into the free areas in search for work, but were instead beaten up by police.

    The official Turkish Cypriot news agency TAK on Wednesday quoted 'police' in the north as saying that the group, which included women and children, had crossed over on Monday.

    A statement by Turkish Cypriot 'police' said that seven men and a 12-year- old boy had been "heavily beaten and tortured".

    Markides yesterday said he would be proposing to the Cabinet that one or more independent investigators be appointed to look into possible criminal offenses relating to the reported abuse. Markides also sent fax messages to all local dailies requesting Greek translations of the relevant Turkish Cypriot press reports.

    UNFICYP spokesman Charles Gaulkin told the Cyprus Mail that the UN was looking into the reports. But he added that so far no formal complaint had been made to the UN about their treatment.

    TAK claimed two of the men needed hospital treatment on their return.

    All the newspapers in the north yesterday splashed out on the allegations, claiming women had been dragged along the ground by masked police officers and forced to sing.

    Starting out from the occupied village of Makrasyka near Famagusta, the papers said the gypsies had journeyed south in the hope of a better life. But they were allegedly met by police, loaded into a land rover and driven to a police station. After a telephone call, they were allegedly driven to another police station, then taken to a field.

    There, the papers said, they were "beaten and tortured", before being deposited the following night at the buffer zone near occupied Kato Kopia in the Morphou area.

    Police yesterday refused to comment on the allegations.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] Officials insist special needs measures will be in place by September

    By Jenny Curtis THE ORGANISATION responsible for recruiting new teachers has confirmed that hundreds of extra staff have been appointed in preparation for the introduction of children with special needs into mainstream schools this September.

    Last year, a total of 170 were taken on, but only 29 have been appointed so far this year.

    "We are currently waiting for the go-ahead before we sign on any new teachers for this area," said Christos Theopholides, the Chairman of the Education Service Committee.

    He explained that the committee could only appoint people once they had received detailed instructions from the Education Ministry.

    Earlier this week, left-wing opposition party, AKEL, accused the government of failing to make the necessary changes in time for the new system, which should come into effect this autumn.

    It said no special training had been given to existing teachers and that class sizes had not been reduced to allow for the influx of special needs children, despite the fact that the actual law was changed two years ago.

    However, Frixos Demetriades, the Chief Education Officer, argued the ministry had put in a lot of effort to make sure mainstream schools were ready for their arrival.

    "We have been working very hard and it's typical that some people are complaining," he told the Mail.

    Similarly Theopholides was quick to defend the department, and he said that as far as he was aware, Education Minister Ouranios Ioannides had given the matter his full attention.

    "We are told each year exactly who we should be appointing, according to the needs of the island and as yet we are still waiting for more information regarding this year's intake, but I'm confident we'll find out soon."

    Another source from the Education Service Committee confessed they had been forced to employ a significant number of foreigners to fill the posts, as while it was easy to fill the regular jobs, it was not so easy to find the appropriate staff for the special needs vacancies. "There's a big emphasis on employing locally," she said, "but this isn't always possible and we have had to take on people with special status, such as those who have a Cypriot parent or people who have lived here for more than five years."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Hasikos: radar problems all sorted out

    By Melina Demetriou DEFENCE Minister Socratis Hasikos announced yesterday that the neighbouring National Guard and British radars on Troodos no longer interfered with one another's operation.

    But the British Bases said yesterday they were still examining the situation.

    The minister made the announcement after taking members of the House Defence Committee through driving snow to tour the site of the Thomson radars yesterday morning.

    The National Guard's radars were, until last October, located further down the mountain at a spot where they did not provide full coverage of the Nicosia Flight Information Region. But four months ago the radars were moved near the British radar site on Mount Olympus, giving them vastly improved performance.

    British military authorities initially claimed the National Guard radars interfered with the operation of their own facility.

    "Deputies saw with their own eyes that our radars cover the whole Nicosia FIR," the minister told reporters at the National Guard's Club on Troodos yesterday.

    "And any problems we had with the British authorities have been fully resolved through co-operation. SBA radars operate without any interference from ours, the same way as our radars work without interference from theirs. And no side had to give anything up to achieve this, " Hasikos added.

    But an SBA spokesman told the Cyprus Mail yesterday: "That remains to be seen. We are conducting a technical evaluation to determinate whether there is still a problem with the two radar sites being next to each other."

    Defence Committee chairman Takis Hadjidemetriou of KISOS was impressed by the site.

    "I was extremely impressed by the radars' site, compared to the one we had before. There has been a definite improvement. High technology, information and properly trained personnel is what makes good defence and in the radars' case I must say we have reached that stage," Hadjidemetriou said right after touring the site.

    "The aim is for all army units to reach that stage," Hasikos noted.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Turkish crisis spills over into the occupied north

    By Jenny Curtis THE TURKISH economic crisis is having a crippling effect on businesses in the occupied areas of Cyprus.

    With the Turkish Lira in freefall, one Turkish Cypriot professional yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that foreign exchange offices in the north had been forced temporarily to close, which means any tourists arriving there would struggle to buy local currency.

    She said there had been chaos on the market since a row between Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and President Ahmet Necdet Sezer sparked the crisis on Monday.

    "On Tuesday, we saw banks rushing to the Central Bank to buy vast quantities of foreign currency and then on Wednesday they were returning to sell it back," she added. "The situation's so turbulent that no-one really knows what's going on. If you walked into a shop with foreign money the owner would have to make a series of calls just to establish what it's worth, before you could even buy anything," she added.

    The woman confessed she has lost half the value of her savings this week, and that many other Turkish Cypriots were in a similar predicament.

    "We always know it's a risk to keep Turkish Lira in the bank, but no-one could have predicted this sort of fall in value - it's unbelievable." And she added that the atmosphere in the occupied areas was generally tense, as people worried about how the crisis would develop.

    Turkish Cypriot papers reported yesterday that growing unemployment was eroding the Security Fund's deposits in the banks. According to research carried out by one paper, the Fund is loosing one trillion TL a month in terms of reduced contributions. Mehmet Burhan, 'under secretary to the Prime Ministry,' announced this week that there would be no development tax deductions from public sector salaries this month, and no tax from pensions.

    'Prime Minister' Dervis Eroglu has denied suggestions that the economy of the occupied areas is on the verge of collapse, but admitted there was a real possibility it would if a 'government' package of economic measures was not implemented. He vowed that politicians would make sacrifices to help bring the economy back onto its feet, which he said may mean a reduction in top rank privileges.

    Varol Oztug, the leader of a teachers' union in the north, has accused the current administration of being at fault for the economy's difficulties, and said the only way the situation could be resolved was through a change of 'government'. Oztug argued the economy would collapse if the government economic package was introduced and said 41 union organisations would oppose the move.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] House rejects DISY calls to change election date

    By a Staff Reporter THE HOUSE yesterday decided by majority vote not to change the date of the May general elections.

    The issue was settled during a meeting held in the morning between party leaders and representatives.

    The parties decided that the elections would be held as scheduled on May 27, despite strong disagreement from ruling DISY.

    The House will dissolve on April 19.

    DISY insisted that the date should have been brought either forward or back to give Cypriots living abroad, mostly students, the chance to come home and vote.

    After the meeting, DISY leader Nicos Anastassiades said that, despite his party's disagreement, the elections would go ahead as planned.

    "Unfortunately, all the other parties insisted on May 27, which essentially deprives 14,000 new voters of the chance to exercise their right."

    Anastassiades hinted that certain civil servants had dragged their feet in processing constitutional and legislative amendments, which would have opened the way for Cypriots abroad to vote at the embassies.

    "Where there's a will, there's a way," Anastassiades added.

    "We have discussed the issue for years and those officials who today are citing various problems should have worked on ways to overcome them."

    Main opposition AKEL parliamentary spokesman Andreas Christou said that if the date had been changed it would have created more problems than it would have solved.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Helios takes over Sofia flights as Balkan goes into liquidation

    By Athena Karsera HELIOS Airways has been given temporary permission to carry out flights between Larnaca and Sofia in order to bring back Cypriots stranded in Bulgaria for over a week after the country's national airline went into liquidation.

    Sofia City Court this week appointed temporary syndics to the air company after its insurer Bulstrad JSC made a claim for Balkan Bulgarian Airline going into insolvency.

    In an attempt to bring the remaining passengers home and to cater for travellers from Cyprus to Bulgaria, the island's second charter firm Helios Airways has now been given a temporary permit to carry out flights between the two countries. The first flight left Cyprus for Sofia yesterday afternoon.

    Helios usually charters flights only for tourists flying into Cyprus, but is set to discuss flights for outgoing passengers sometime this year.

    The company's Sales and Marketing Manager Andreas Christodoulides yesterday told the I that the 16.10 flight to Sofia that afternoon had been fully booked and that the return flight later yesterday was also expected to be full: "Balkan used to fly to Cyprus three times a week so there is a lot of backlog."

    He said an arrangement had been made for passengers already carrying Balkan Airline tickets to exchange them for Helios ones and that others had simply bought tickets directly with the airline.

    The arrangement is expected to continue until next Thursday, he said.

    A representative from Alasia Travel Agents, Balkan's agent in Nicosia, yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that alternative arrangements had already been made for many of the stranded passengers, and that, "It is not a time when a lot of students want to return to Cyprus, for example, so there is a very small number of passengers left."

    The arrangement brought stranded passengers back to Cyprus via Athens with Olympic Airways or Budapest with Hungary's Malev Airlines.

    Some passengers were reported to have taken busses to Athens to catch connecting flights back to Cyprus.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] Concern over summary deportation of Iranian family

    By Jennie Matthew AN IRANIAN family with two young children was deported on Wednesday without even being allowed to return to their home to collect personal effects, according to yesterday's Politis.

    The paper said Malihen and Valiounah Nazarian, aged 28 and 32, were arrested at the weekend for overstaying their entry visa. They were detained until the evening flight to Iran on Wednesday.

    The two little boys, aged two and five, were taken into foster care for three days, wearing just the clothes they were wearing on the day they were taken. Their mother was barred from comforting them. Limassol welfare department hastily bought them tracksuits before reuniting them with their parents on the way to the airport.

    Officials refused to let them return to their home and pack their personal belongings. The father pleaded to be allowed to call a friend to say goodbye. That was his only privilege.

    The parents cried all the way from Limassol to Larnaca airport, Politis said.

    The Chairman of the Immigrant Support Group (ISAG), Doros Polycarpou, yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that police had said that all Iranians were to be deported when their visas expired, because of suspicions that they might be involved in drug trafficking.

    The various authorities involved in the case yesterday refused to comment. Limassol welfare refused to comment about the case. They refused to either confirm or deny the Politis report.

    The police said yesterday they knew nothing of the case. Police are not obliged to inform anyone of their decision to deport immigrants - a stance that Polycarpou says is unacceptable.

    He claimed police deportation policies contravened the January 2000 Refugee Act that prohibits deportation of immigrants who have pending asylum claims.

    But the UNHCR said yesterday that the family in question had not applied for asylum status.

    Politis said the family had claimed their lives were in danger in Iran.

    The Deputy Ambassador of Iran, Behzad Azarsa, yesterday told Cyprus Mail that the embassy was investigating the details of the case, after the media had notified them, to determine whether human rights had indeed been violated.

    He said problems with illegal immigrants from Iran had arisen in the past.

    "We do, however, have small numbers of Iranians who wish to work here legally, with the consent of their Cypriot employers. We always stress that they should observe the laws and regulations of Cyprus. And so far, so good, " he said.

    The UNHCR spent Tuesday and Wednesday working frantically to prevent the deportation of five other Iranians who had applied for political asylum at the end of January, after a breakdown of communication with the Immigration Department. In the end, they managed to save one family and two other adults from deportation.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Cyprus bars British meat imports

    By a Staff Reporter CYPRUS has banned all imports of British meat and by- products following an outbreak of foot and mouth disease in England.

    The Agriculture Ministry confirmed yesterday that the suspension affected livestock, meat and a range of animal products, including cheeses, but not canned goods.

    Britain halted exports of live animals and products on Wednesday after the discovery of the disease in pigs at an abattoir in South East England - the first outbreak in 20 years.

    Foot and mouth causes blisters in the mouth and lameness and while it does not affect humans, it can prove fatal for animals. It is an airborne virus that is highly contagious and is capable of spreading rapidly.

    The decision follows an EU ban on all British meat exports on Wednesday.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [09] Health Ministry hits back at foundry policy critics

    By Jennie Matthew THE HEALTH Ministry yesterday hit back at claims that it was responsible for the delays in commissioning tests on emissions at the Nemitsas foundry outside Limassol.

    The Ministry said it had nothing to hide, and that it could accept criticism from anyone who cared to make it because it had nothing to fear from it.

    According to a report by Ombudswoman Eliana Nicolaou, leaked by the Greens on Wednesday, the "relevant government services" committed "inexcusable omissions and delays in taking and implementing decisions".

    She said that ambiguous environmental and public health law had contributed to the "faulty and inefficient" handling of the problem.

    The Green Party released the February 14 report at a news conference, accusing the government of misleading the House and the public about the Nemitsas danger for 15 years.

    Local residents have continuously complained of the lack of official response to their complaints that the foundry caused respiratory and learning difficulties in their children.

    But the Health Ministry yesterday declared its innocence and pointed the finger at the Labour Ministry.

    Senior health official Andreas Georgiou said there had been no delay in carrying out the medical tests.

    He said the process of asking for tenders was started immediately after the Cabinet decision was taken last April.

    Three London experts began their preliminary examinations of the area on Monday. Their application of tender, the only one put forward in the open competition, took four months to be approved. Results will not be published until August.

    "The Health Ministry has absolutely no responsibility for the delay. On the contrary, we ran the risk of criticism by putting our necks on the line, by speeding up the process. There was no delay and there are documents testifying to this," said Georgiou.

    On the other hand, he went on to say: "the Health Ministry does not have any jurisdiction in this matter. The jurisdiction belongs to others. We have [only] taken on the medical aspect."

    The 10-man team will carry out medical, environmental and industrial tests to determine whether there is a link between foundry emissions and ill health.

    The Labour Ministry has told the Cyprus Mail that it has nothing to do with the health tests on Omonia and Zakaki citizens.

    The Labour Ministry is merely responsible for ensuring that emissions from the foundry do not exceed the statutory limit.

    Health Minister Frixos Savvides has promised to close Nemitsas if the tests prove that the foundry damages human health. Similar tests led to the closure of the Ergates foundry outside Nicosia last year.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [10] Tsiakourmas family organise rally for his release

    By a Staff Reporter A MASS rally to demand the release of Greek Cypriot contractor Panikos Tsiakourmas -- abducted by the occupation regime on December 13 -- is to be held in Nicosia's Eleftheria Square this afternoon.

    The 4pm rally, organised by Tsiakourmas' family, is planned for a few hours after the 39-year-old Greek Cypriot is due to appear before a 'court' in the north on cannabis smuggling charges.

    The abducted man's wife, Niki, yesterday secured the support of all political parties for the rally. "I must thank the parties for the support they are showing. This is an issue that concerns all Cypriots and not just my family - if it was not Panicos it would be someone else (being held by the Turks)," Niki said after a morning meeting with party leaders.

    "At tomorrow's pan-Cyprian rally, we will demand the immediate release of my husband as, at this moment, an innocent man is rotting in the dungeons of (Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf) Denktash," Niki added.

    The government has rejected an occupation regime offer to release Tsiakourmas in a "swap" deal for a Turkish Cypriot heroin smuggling suspect currently on trial before a Larnaca court. Tsiakourmas was abducted from within the British base of Dhekelia a few days after Cyprus police arrested Turkish Cypriot suspect Omer Tekogul near Pyla.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001


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