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Cyprus

Forty years since the coup

The Greek junta-engineered coup wanted to overthrow the island’s president, Archbishop Makarios.

By George Psyllides

THE NATIONAL Council on Monday condemned the July 1974 coup and the Turkish invasion and occupation that followed and vowed to work to reunify the country.

Tuesday, July 15, marks the 40th anniversary since the Greek junta-engineered coup to overthrow the island’s president, Archbishop Makarios.

The coup triggered the Turkish invasion five days later, which led to the occupation of one-third of Cyprus, and forced thousands to abandon their homes.

“In light of the black anniversaries of July, the National Council unanimously condemns the twin crimes of the coup perpetrated by the junta and its cohorts in Cyprus, and the continuing occupation of a large part of our country by Turkey,” deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said.

The council stressed that the fight to reverse the effects of the invasion and occupation and reunify the island will continue and towards this “the Greek Cypriot side will work consistently to find a fair, functional, and viable solution on the basis of the UN resolutions and the high level agreements.”

It was around 8.15am when tank columns emerged in the streets of Nicosia, headed for the presidential palace, where Makarios was meeting with a group of Egyptian children.

The meeting was interrupted by gunfire and Makarios was led away by his minders down a passage on the side of the compound that was left unguarded by the coupists.

He eventually reached a British military base from where he was flown out of the country.

That same afternoon, newspaper publisher Nikos Sampson was appointed president of the republic by coup leaders. His presidency only lasted eight days, when he was forced to resign because of the Turkish invasion.

The anniversary will be marked on Tuesday by sounding the sirens at the time when the coup started on July 15.
Church and memorial services will also be held for those killed during the operation.

DIKO said it will honour those who sacrificed themselves and defended democracy and lawfulness.

The party condemned the coup and the invasion “two crimes that cannot be forgotten no matter how many years go by”.

EDEK paid tribute to those who defended democracy against the junta and their local supporters.

“It is our debt to continue the fight to end the occupation and restore the human rights and freedoms of our people,” the party said.

Main opposition AKEL said July 15 was the beginning of the biggest catastrophe that fell on Cyprus in modern history.

“The fascist coup perpetrated by the junta and EOKA B (paramilitary organisation), attempted to topple and assassinate Makarios and resulted in the Turkish Attila’s barbarian invasion,” AKEL said.

The party condemned the coup and its participants and paid tribute to those who fell fighting against it.

“Once more, the party condemns the crimes perpetrated during the eight days,” as well as the theories of ‘executing orders’ and ‘genuine patriotic motives’ used by some quarters to equate coupists and resistance fighters.

The most prominent case, which continues to divide Cypriot society, concerns the 21 commandos killed during the attack against the presidential palace.

For many years there had been no official memorial service for the teenage conscripts but a fairly recent change sparks controversy on every anniversary.

In 2007, Archbishop Chrysostomos was criticised after presiding over the graveside service for the commandos, as was Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos for attending the service last year.

Many argue that they were just youths following orders and should not be treated as if they had orchestrated and executed the coup themselves, especially when nothing was ever done about people who were part of the coup and went on to take prominent positions.

The irony is that the commandos were buried in the same cemetery – Constantinou and Elenis in Nicosia – as those who died defending Makarios that day.

The events of that period, especially the Greek junta-inspired coup, continue to be highly emotive issues for society especially since no one – except the man who assumed the presidency briefly – has been brought to justice.

Only Sampson stood trial and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

Three years into his sentence he was allowed to go to France on medical reasons.

He returned to prison in 1990 but was freed again a few months later. He died in 2001.

Sixty-two civil servants who had been sacked following the events had their reputations restored in the 1990s by the Glafcos Clerides administration.


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