THE entire Paphos council, along with the mayor, were formally charged at the Nicosia court on Monday on 29 counts relating to the destruction of a wall in Paphos.
The mayor was not present as he is currently on an official visit to Poland. All the defendants each had to sign a 2000 euro bail. The trial date has been set for October 31.
The action was brought by a local businessman, Polys Patatos, the owner of a Paphos marble factory which adjoins the Markideio Theatre in Paphos.
He alleges that the tearing down of a wall, which he says is part of his property, by the Paphos municipality as part of the upgrading works on the theatre and its outside space, is illegal and caused malicious damage.
However, one of the councillors who was in court on Monday, Andreas Chrysanthou, said that the move was made by the mayor Phedonas Phedonos without the authorisation of the council and that the councillors will now most probably distance themselves from the mayor as part of their defence procedure.
“All of this has happened because of the stupid actions of the mayor and now we have ended up in this predicament. We will most probably split our position from the mayor.”
He added that a guilty verdict could leave all of the defendants facing a hefty fine.
Chrysanthou claimed that the councillors were unaware that Phedonos planned to demolish the wall, and said that ‘apparently’ the mayor personally ordered the contractors to take down the wall when he was on site.
“The marble factory owner says that the wall belongs to him and now we have to prove our innocence,” he said.
According to Chrysanthou’s lawyer, the defendants are facing charges relating to trespassing onto a property with the intent to cause a crime, causing unlawful damage to property, and conspiracy of undertaking these actions.
The 23 defendants accused include the 18 council members and the mayor, Paphos municipality, the contractor, the two directors of the contracting company and the digger driver.
The present case is part of a longer-running battle between Patatos and the municipality.
The problems are connected to three pieces of Turkish Cypriot owned land which the businessman was using as part of his enterprise. In the past Patatos secured an injunction concerning two pieces of the land which prevented any action to be taken at the site by Paphos municipality, as part of the upgrading works. This was then cancelled, as the court found that the businessman was operating on the land without lawfully having the two plots ‘in his possession.’
However, the businessman also legally leases a third piece of Turkish Cypriot owned land, which is licensed by the ministry of the interior, and this is where the wall was situated.
Chrysanthou is arguing that the members of the council have no liability, as the actions of the mayor were undertaken without their authority.
“The Markideio Theatre is also built on Turkish Cypriot land, but this is with permission for decades, since around 1960. The municipality got all of the relevant permissions to undertake necessary work and move the marble factory from the two pieces of land,” said Chrysanthou. “Tearing down the wall was not done with the council’s permission and the mayor should bear any financial repercussions.”
Chrysanthou said that the factory owner has claimed that demolishing the wall has damaged equipment and his electricity supply.