Britons lose N. Cyprus land case

NICOSIA (AFP) – A British couple living in Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus lost an appeal yesterday against a court decision to demolish their retirement home as it was illegally built on Greek-Cypriot property. The decision has wider legal ramifications, with thousands of Britons and other European Union nationals having bought land in the island’s north that originally belonged to Greek Cypriots. Lawyers for Linda and David Orams had argued that the property was bought in good faith, but this was done without the consent of the owner, a Greek-Cypriot refugee now living in the south of the island. The court upheld a November ruling that the home be demolished and damages be paid to owner Meletis Apostolides, citing rulings by the European Court of Human Rights that Greek-Cypriot refugees – who number some 200,000 people – are «the only true and lawful owners» of their land. The Orams’ Turkish-Cypriot lawyer Gunesh Mentesh said the couple would not demolish the house, in an area popular with pensioners, but would appeal to a higher court within 10 days. Apostolides’s lawyer, Constantinos Candounas, said he would take up the fight through the British legal system if need be. [This would mean seeking the right to move against the couple’s assets in the United Kingdom. «It is still in the early stages, we cannot be definite on how this case will end,» he told Reuters when asked whether a petition would be filed in British courts. «But this judgment is enforceable from today.»] There are an estimated 4,000 Britons living on a permanent basis in the Turkish-occupied north. [Mass acquisitions of land by foreigners adds a further tough twist to the already complex issue of property ownership on the island in the wake of the 1974 Turkish invasion. The United Nations-drafted peace blueprint that was rejected on April 24, 2004 by a majority of Greek Cypriots – while most Turkish Cypriots backed the deal in a simultaneous referendum ahead of the island’s EU entry – foresaw a combination of compensation and limited restitution for Cypriots who had lost their property in the north.]

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