A series of attacks on Turkish Cypriots, in particular a massacre from 1974, have gone unpunished. Why?
By George Koumoullis
THEMIS, the Goddess of Justice holds in her right hand a set of scales and has a blindfold over her eyes. To avoid being influenced in her decisions, she must not see the face of the defendant, the witnesses and other participants in a trial. But for the Cypriot Themis these accessories are nonsensical and have been scrapped so she can examine everyone with her searching and piercing glare.
A former attorney-general, making a mockery of every sense of the rule of law, issued a nolle prosequi for his son who was facing a host of charges for traffic offences. A few years ago, nine students were charged with attacking Turkish Cypriot English School students in front of dozens of students who were also witnesses. In the end, no student appeared in court. Why and how did this happen?
The explanation was given by the then chief of police Charalambos Koulentis. “The youngsters that took part in the episode are children from sound families, with parents who have leading positions in Cyprus society and command great prestige,” he said. In Cyprus, Themis has her eyes wide open.
Pending before the courts currently is the case of the secondary school students who attacked Turkish Cypriots on the Nicosia streets last November. The general feeling is that the case will be covered up. The state legal service is ill and its head is being called to make it objective, fair and blind in the implementation of the law and not send it to the hospital of incurable diseases.
What really shocked however, was the Astra radio show of October 21, 2015 on which the guest was former EDEK deputy Takis Hadjidemetriou. During the show a text message from an unknown listener was read and it said: “I was a member of Eoka B and killed many Turkish Cypriots in 1974. If a case is opened against me would I be tried in the north or the south?” The staggering audacity of this murderer prompted me to write an article which was published here on November 1, 2015.
Citing the shameless query of the listener, I wrote scathingly about the apathy of the state with regard to the brutal murder of 126 women and children at the Turkish Cypriot villages of Maratha, Aloa and Sandalari by members of Eoka B. I also explained that this was a war crime. While the state was not involved, from the moment it knew the suspects yet made no effort to arrest and charge them it became an accomplice of the Eoka B gangsters. Criminal law is absolutely clear about this. Nor is the knowledge that the Turkish Cypriots committed similar crimes in Voni and Palekythro in any way a mitigating circumstance for the police’s inaction.
A few days after the publication of my article (November 4 if my memory serves me well) I received a phone call from the police headquarters and was told police wanted to question me about what I had written. It was a big surprise to me that the police, at last, had decided to look into the matter. An even greater surprise was that they chose me even though they knew that I had nothing to do with Eoka B. But the greatest surprise of all was that all these criminals, who had been identified through the articles of several journalists, were roaming free among us. One of them became a religious instruction teacher!
The next day I made my maiden visit to the police HQ. Expecting to be greeted by a team of officers (you see, innocence is not completely eliminated by age) I was welcomed by a very polite policewoman. It was obvious there was a big difference between my evaluation of the seriousness of case and the police’s The policewoman wrote down everything I said in response to her questions. In effect, I said nothing more than what I had written in my article. The details are now known by tens of thousands Greek Cypriots – that Eoka B men killed in cold blood 126 women (having first raped some) and children in three Turkish Cypriot villages. They then threw the bodies into a rubbish dump.
It goes without saying that the information I gave in my statement was a deficient and vague picture of the crimes committed and I suggested to the investigating officer that the police should contact the radio listener who had publicly admitted to committing the murders. She fully agreed with me. But contacting Astra radio subsequently I realised that no contact had ever been made.
Several questions are raised by this farce. If the police were really interested in bringing the guilty parties for this atrocity before justice why had they chosen to question only me, who had absolutely nothing to do with the case ‘under investigation’? Why had the police not approached the listener who had boasted he killed Turkish Cypriots? Had the investigation been completed with my 30-minute questioning? Had the attorney-general’s office backed or not backed this tactic of the police?
How come, in the case of the June murder of the four people in Ayia Napa, the police have left no stone unturned in the effort to find the suspects, while for the atrocities at the Turkish Cypriot villages they have given in to the wishes of the extreme, nationalist Right and remained inactive, terrified and speechless? Could it be that the police force’s fear (conscious or subconscious) of being accused by the chauvinists as ‘anti-Greek’ and ‘pro-Turkish’ leads to its inertia which inevitably ends in apathy and callousness?
These are some of the big questions to which the public would have expected crystal-clear answers, but this will never happen in Cyprus.
It is a relief the Troika did not deal with state institutions. If it had it is possible it would have deemed us unworthy of EU membership, but very worthy of reform school.
George Koumoullis is an economist and social scientist