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Cyprus

A morning in ‘the courts of justice’

By Tina Adamidou

The courts in any land supposedly uphold justice. Perhaps we should question this given the obvious delaying tactics entertained by the authorities upholding the laws in northern Cyprus.

Koray Basdogrultmaci and Cinel Senem Husseyin, a young couple who call themselves Turkish Speaking Cypriots, were once again in ‘court’ this week for a case that has been ongoing for over a year now.

In June 2013 the couple were arrested after complaints from five settlers to the police that they were flying the Republic of Cyprus’ flag outside Koray’s shop in Famagusta. Refusing to take down the flags, they were subsequently arrested and as there is no law pertaining to flying the Cypriot flag, they were charged with ‘non-recognition of the TRNC’ and ‘disturbing the peace’.

“I am a Cypriot,” states Koray, “my flag is the Republic of Cyprus’ flag, it is my shop. If I want to hang it up outside, then it is a basic human right that I do. It is okay for Turkish Speaking Cypriots to have the Republic’s passports, health cards and identity cards, so what is wrong with flying the flag that I believe represents me?”

For this reason they have been shuttling backwards and forwards to ‘courts’ in the north for nearly a year and a half with postponement after postponement. It appears that the authorities do not know how to handle this case.

On the same day this week that the couple appeared in ‘court’, a number of other cases were heard.

A man who drove over a garbage can after a three car back to back accident was issued with a fine that had to be paid by lunchtime. A fine was also issued to a driver who lost control of his car and ended up on the opposite side of the road injuring two pedestrians and damaging a bicycle. The worse of all he was driving without a driver’s licence, MOT, and road tax and was speeding.

Then there was the man who beat up a police officer after he stormed in the A&E unit of a hospital to help his father escape. There were countless postponements of cases till the New Year. The prosecutor seemed too tired to argue any cases, while the various defence lawyers strutted in and out of the courtroom for less than a few minutes representing their clients.

The couple’s case, which should not have even come to court, is not just a matter of ‘breaking the law’ as there does not appear to be a law broken. It is an issue that is very politically based and yet not one politician either in the north or south has bothered to approach these two Cypriots to listen and help.

The only person that seemed to show any respect for the procedures in the courtroom was an armed police officer who made sure everybody was called to the stand on time and dealt with the paperwork. I asked him outside whether the gun was loaded. He said it had to be loaded at all times. Asked whether he had ever used it, he smiled and said ‘it is always a last resort and, no, I have not had to use it, yet.’

Koray Basdogrultmaci and Cinel Senem Husseyin ’s case was one of the first to be heard. Apparently a ‘misunderstanding’ resulted in the judge thinking that they were not to be represented by their solicitor. The reality being that their solicitor was unable to attend the case and had sent his son from Nicosia to represent them, but the judge thought that they had no representation.

Meanwhile, the police officer who had been due to give his statement at the hearing had not been called to attend either. Either this was a misunderstanding as the judge stated, or it was highly suspicious why once again this trial did not come into being.

Koray and Cinel were again disappointed that their case had not even begun. It has become a living nightmare for the couple. The case has now been postponed till January 12, 2015.

“We are waiting for the trial to begin and for justice to be served. If justice is not served in the courts in the north, then we are prepared to take our case to the Court of Human Rights,” declared Koray Basdogrultmaci.

“We have done nothing wrong. We will not just plead guilty to these charges. Our only crime was flying the Cyprus flag. What law says we can’t?” asked Cinel who is feeling the strain of the uncertainty of what will happen, especially to their two young daughters, the youngest just a few months old, in the case of imprisonment.

Delays, postponements, uncertainty, this young couple have a lot to contend with.

They have risked a lot to call themselves Cypriots yet physical support seems to be missing from their own compatriots north and south. January 12 is not that far away. Maybe it is about time that those of us who call ourselves Cypriots stand alongside the couple and show the support that they need. I for one will be there next to them.


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