Attorney-general (AG) Costas Clerides has shot down a complaint lodged by a local NGO against Archbishop Chrysostomos for remarks he made regarding Turkish settlers in the north.
In the complaint, Kisa (Movement for Equality, Support, Anti-Racism) asked the AG to look into whether the cleric’s language constituted hate speech.
But the AG found that Chrysostomos’ remarks, while “intense,” were not directed at a particular group based on their ethnic background or religion.
Clerides statement, communicated on Thursday, was a response to Kisa which took offence at remarks made by the prelate on a television news programme last week.
Speaking of Turkish settlers in the north, the archbishop had said:
“They are Anatolians, uncouth, they will never become European, not even in a 100 years, and if they stay here they will spawn a dozen children per family; where are we going to go?”
He was commenting on a possible settlement of the island’s division and the number of Turkish settlers who would be allowed to stay.
Asked by the reporter if he thought his comments could be construed as racist, the archbishop said the settlers, even without citizenship, would remain as workers.
“We must look at why they arrived,” he added. “They came to alter the demographic composition of our people. They didn’t come to work like the Sri Lankans, Thais, Arabs, and so on.
He went on to say he agreed that that Turkish nationals married to Turkish Cypriots could stay after a solution; “fortunately, the Turkish Cypriots don’t like settlers and the marriages are not many,” he said, adding that that was the reason he wasn’t bothered if they stayed.
“But the others must leave so that Ankara’s objective would not be achieved,” he added.
In his opinion, the AG said Chrysostomos was making a distinction between illegal settlers and economic migrants or people who legally come to Cyprus for work.
Moreover, Clerides said the archbishop’s views that illegal settlers should not be legitimised – except those married with Turkish Cypriots – and that Turkey has flooded the north with settlers, are long-standing positions held by the Republic since 1974 and have a basis in international law.
“The rhetoric is not directed at these people who were transported in the occupied areas but at those who used them illegally, against international law, to effect forcible change of the demographic character of those areas,” Clerides later explained to the Cyprus Mail.
In his response to Kisa, the AG further noted: “I disagree with your position that the archbishop’s aforesaid statements constitute incitement to xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, nor did they incite racial hatred against Turks or Turkish Cypriots.
“The remarks are clearly directed against the stay in Cyprus of illegally transported settlers, who in this case ‘happen’ to be Turkish Muslims, and not ‘because’ they are Turkish Muslims.”
Though some of the words used by the archbishop may be “intense,” Clerides added, “it is also a fact that according to data collected at various times in relation to settlers, reference has been made that some of them hail from Anatolia, they have a low level of education and bear children with an alarming frequency.”
The attorney-general has on previous occasions stressed that a balance must be struck between free speech and the law banning abuse.
In 2011, a law was passed specifically to combat racism and xenophobia through criminalisation.
But later in the day, Kisa said it refused to let the matter go.
Speaking to the Sigma channel, Kisa executive director Doros Polycarpou said that, irrespective of the AG’s opinion – which they disagreed with – they plan to file a private criminal prosecution against the Archbishop.
And should the AG subsequently decline to allow prosecution, Kisa would take the matter up with the European Court of Justice.
Private criminal prosecutions in Cyprus require the nod from the AG to proceed.
Kisa, while accomplishing a great deal of work in terms of material and legal support of migrants and their rights, has taken on the mantle of anti-discrimination and anti-racist watchdog.
Some of the NGO’s projects have been funded by George Soros’ think tank, the Open Society Foundation (OSF).
The OSF’s role in supporting mass migration has come under scrutiny, particularly in the wake of documents leaked last year.
In a memo called ‘Migration Governance and Enforcement Portfolio Review’, the OSF called the immigration crisis in Europe the ‘new normal’.
According to the same document, OSF saw Europe’s refugee crisis as an opportunity – a chance to influence immigration policies worldwide and collaborate with other wealthy donors.