WITH EVIDENCE submitted from both sides, all eyes are now on the British Appeals Court to await the outcome of the Orams property dispute.
On Thursday, it was the turn of British couple Linda and David Orams’ lawyers to tell the court why they believed their clients should keep the house they built on land owned by refugee Melitis Apostolides and his family. Yesterday Apostolides’ lawyers put the case as to why the Lapithos property should be returned to the man they see as its legal owner.
Now it is up to the court to decide.
Speaking minutes after leaving the courtroom, Apostolides’ lawyer Constantis Candounas told the Cyprus Mail the verdict could come at any time.
“It could come in a week or in the next few months,” Candounas said.
The case began in 2005, when Candounas crossed the Green Line into the occupied north and delivered a summons to Linda and David Orams demanding they appear in a Nicosia court to face accusations that they were trespassing on property owned by Apostolides.
The Nicosia court found them guilty of trespassing and the Orams were ordered to demolish the house they had built on Apostolides’ land and pay punitive damages and back rent.
When the Orams refused to adhere to the ruling, Apostolides took the case to the British High Courts, hoping that the fellow EU nation would use its courts to uphold the Nicosia ruling.
However, the British court, citing Protocol 10 of Cyprus’ EU accession agreement, said it could not rule against the Orams because the alleged crime had been committed in the north, a territory stipulated to be outside the influence and responsibility of Cyprus, and therefore also outside the jurisdiction of the EU and its courts.
For clarification on the issue, the British court asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to advise. This the ECJ did in April this year, ruling that Protocol 10 did not preclude the prosecution in EU courts of crimes allegedly committed in the northern part of Cyprus – a ruling that was perceived as a severe blow to many in the north as it made potential criminals of anyone, Cypriot or foreign, who had purchased property belonging to Greek Cypriots before the 1974 invasion.
The last two days of proceedings in the Appeals Court come as a result of Apostolides’ appeal against the initial British ruling that it could not act to uphold the Nicosia ruling. It remains to be seen whether the British court will adhere to the advice it asked for and received from the ECJ.
Last night Candounas told the Cyprus Mail he had spent the day responding to the Orams’ arguments. “It was a good day, I think our arguments we received well by the court and the judges,” Candounas said.
On Thursday, one of the Orams’ lawyers, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife Cherie Blair, called on the ECJ to review its ruling of last April that EU courts could rule on alleged crimes committed in the north.
Blair’s argument was that the ruling was ‘not impartial’ because of the involvement in the ruling of ECJ President Vassilios Skouris, who she said had links with the Greek Cypriots that rendered him partial in the case.
Skouris received the Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III of the Republic of Cyprus in 2006 from then-Cyprus president Tassos Papadopoulos. The Grand Collar is an awarded presented to those deemed to have served the Cyprus Republic. The Orams lawyer also highlighted that Skouris had high-level friends in the government of Cyprus and was known to have visited Greek Cypriot refugees in the just months before the April ruling of the ECJ.
Another argument put forward by Blair was that upholding the Nicosia ruling would go against public policy in the UK. Furthermore, it was argued that the Orams case should not be seen as a case between individuals but as part of a wider political issue that could only be resolved by politicians.
Nicolas Green, another of the Orams’ legal team argued that the result of the ruling would effect a large number of people, and that this needed to be taken into account before the court rules on the case. The court was also told that while Greek Cypriots could claim their properties in the north, there was no mechanism for Turkish Cypriots to reclaim their properties in the south.
This the Orams’ lawyers described as a “great inequality”.
It was also argued that a win for Apostolides could be “dangerous” for Cyprus and would damage ongoing reunification talks.
The lawyer also requested that they be allowed to present further evidence of Skouris’ “biased” attitude to the court, a request that is being considered by the court.
© Cyprus Mail 2009