Breather for Mount Hymettus

An Athens appeals court has put a stop to land-grabbing on Mt Hymettus, resulting in the cancellation of sales contracts for 62 hectares of forest in the Aixoni area of Glyfada, on Athens’s coastline. After six years in the courts, the municipality of Glyfada has won its battle against individuals who had used illegal contracts to claim state forestland as private property. Charges have also been brought regarding forged documents. Following a report by local Mayor Stelios Sfakianakis, the Glyfada council unanimously decided to make every effort to have the entire mountain declared a «Public Forest Estate» in order to put an end to efforts on the part of private individuals to acquire land on the mountain. Sfakianakis told Kathimerini that procedures are under way to ensure that «the mountain will be for everyone and not just for the few.» The 62-hectare Aixoni area has a history of land-grabbing that epitomizes the situation in many parts of Greece. It is part of a 1,100 ha area outside the town plan which many people have been seeking to acquire a part of. In 1830, the area around what is now Glyfada was state land, an area thickly forested with pine trees. A century later, 3,600 hectares of it were acquired by a Pyrros Karapanos, who had only dubious legal title to it. Of that area, 1,200 ha constitutes what is now the suburb of Glyfada, created by the division into plots and sale of Karapanos’s property. The remaining 1,100 ha are being encroached upon by land-grabbers. The Aixoni area appears to have been sold in 1987 by Karapanos’s 89-year-old heir to two overseas Greeks. A forged certificate from the Pendeli forestry service was produced for the sale, along with a forged statement from the taxation bureau that the seller had paid the inheritance tax. The value of the property, according to the sale contract, was 110 million drachmas, although the taxation bureau had valued the land at 21.7 billion drachmas. At that time, criminal charges had been brought but the two buyers finally managed to have the contract ratified and registered with the land deeds bureau. In February 2003, an Athens court ruled in favor of the buyers, but after the municipality of Glyfada appealed, the contracts were canceled as «invalid and unsubstantiated.» «The tolerance of municipal authorities and political pressure create many problems,» Mayor Sfakianakis told Kathimerini, commenting on similar problems in many other parts of the country.