David and Linda Orams of Hove, Sussex, spent their life savings on their dream villa and pool after buying land in the Turkish part of the divided island in 2002. However, the original owner of the land, Meletis Apostolides, who migrated to the south when Turkey militarily intervened in the island in 1974, took court action against the couple, leading to judgments by the Nicosia District Court in Greek Cyprus ordering the immediate demolition of the villa, pool and fencing. They were also ordered to give back the property to Apostolides and pay him damages.
“This creates a new legal framework in those cases where foreigners are trespassing on such properties. But each case must be decided on its own particular facts,” Constantis Candounas, a lawyer for Apostolides, was quoted as saying on Tuesday after the release of the ruling, which Apostolides’ lawyers said was final and a further appeal to the UK Court of Appeal was not permitted.
Apostolides welcomed the ruling, as he described it “a very good and a just decision.” The Orams were not in court.
News reports in the Greek Cypriot media recalled details of the judgments by the Nicosia District Court at the time: “Cease trespassing on the land belonging to Apostolides; deliver up possession of the land to Apostolides; pay ‘mesne profits. (effectively, rent) to Apostolides in respect of the period of their occupation; knock down the villa and fencing they had built on the land; and pay certain sums in respect of Apostolides’ costs for the proceedings.”
The Orams will also be ordered to pay the legal fees incurred by Apostolides regarding the London and Luxembourg proceedings, news reports added, referring to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) process involving the case.
In May last year, the ECJ ruled the Greek Cypriot court decision in 2004 ordering the Orams to demolish their house is applicable in Britain as well because both Greek Cyprus and Britain are members of the European Union. The UK Court of Appeal which had asked the ECJ to state its opinion on the case will now issue its final verdict. At the time, the Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that the decision went against the parameters set for the reunification process.
The ruling has been expected to scare away foreigners interested in buying property in Turkish Cyprus, dealing a serious blow to the Turkish Cypriot economy. Foreign property investments are estimated to have injected $1-2 billion into the Turkish Cypriot economy in recent years.
The UK Court of Appeal, meanwhile, has rejected claims the judge had close links to Greek Cyprus and was biased, the BBC reported.
Orams’ legal team had said that the president of the ECJ, Vassilios Skouris, had visited and received delegations from Greek Cyprus while deliberating on the case. Late Greek Cypriot leader Tassos Papadopoulos had decorated Skouris with the government’s Grand Collar of the Order of Makarios III in 2006.
Yet, Lord Justice Pill, upholding the European ruling, said there had been “no real possibility” judge Skouris would have been influenced, the BBC reported, quoting him as saying, “The judgment of the court is in no way tarnished by those contacts, considered either individually or cumulatively.”