In the presence of a strong police force, the state on Thursday took control of a disputed property in the Mackenzie area of Larnaca, which had been leased to a private citizen who constructed an event and conference venue in 2010.
Officers arrived at Ktima Makenzy at 6am on the instruction of the interior ministry to enforce a Larnaca court decision issued in 2016.
Staff were asked to vacate the premises in the presence of the user of the property. The procedure went smoothly without any trouble.
In its January 21, 2016 decision, the court awarded the plaintiff compensation and also ordered the government to vacate the property and remove any buildings that have been constructed.
The lawsuit against the state and the guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties had been filed by Raymond Riza, the son and heir of Fikret Ali Riza who died in the UK in June 2000.
Fikret Ali Riza owned the land in the parish of Skala and was born in Larnaca on February 2, 1926. He emigrated to London in 1951 where he lived until his death.
The property was registered to his son in August 2005. Raymond was born in 1955 and has lived in London since. Like Raymond, Fikret was also a British passport holder.
Raymond sued the state and the guardian, demanding some €958,000 in damages for loss of use between 1975 and 2012, as well as general damages for violating his right to property.
The property in question had been requisitioned, like all properties left behind by Turkish Cypriots in the aftermath of the Turkish invasion in July 1974.
In 1991, it came under the control of the guardian (interior ministry), whose task is to protect the properties until an agreement was reached by the two sides.
The state argued that the property had been taken over based on the law of necessity – passed in 1964 to ensure the smooth running of the state after the Turkish Cypriots left their posts in the government and legislature – and public interest.
It also argued that the owner and his heirs could not exercise their rights, without permission from the guardian, as long as the division continued.
It was also claimed that the guardian does not even have the right or authority to return the property before the division ended.
The plaintiff said he had never asked for the property to be handed back before 2011.
He told the court that his father had always tried to take the land back but was advised that he would not succeed because of the events in 1974. Raymond said that he was also given the same advice.
The court ruled that the owner lived in the UK permanently and was a British citizen, as was the plaintiff.
“The case in question does not concern Turkish Cypriot property,” the court said. “It concerns property that was registered and occupied by a British national.”
The court said the case was no different and should not be treated differently from one concerning a Greek Cypriot or other national “who found out that their property in Cyprus was requisitioned for a certain period and the Republic and the guardian assumed possession and control … because it was wrongly deemed Turkish Cypriot.”
The land had been leased and in 2010 the occupant constructed an events venue, Ktima Makenzy, after securing special permission.
The state argued that no loss had been caused to the ownership since the property was a field located in a nature protection zone, inside a housing area, which received an exemption and was developed commercially.
If the court orders its return, the state said, the owner would receive a better, developed, and improved property.
The court did not appear convinced by the arguments, criticising the guardian for the way the case was handled.
Even if the property fell under the conditions of the law on Turkish Cypriot properties, the state did a shoddy job of protecting it, it said.
“What the defendants allowed to happen was what the guardian was tasked to protect the property in question from if it were Turkish Cypriot,” the court said.
The court ordered the defendants to vacate the property and remove any constructions.
It also banned them and any third parties from entering, occupying, and using the property. The orders were suspended for five months to give the defendants time to comply.
It also awarded damages worth around €75,000 added to which were varying levels of interest depending on specific time periods and changing rental values.
And it may not end there for taxpayers as the current occupants may also claim compensation “seeing that they have invested large amounts” after apparently securing a long-term lease.
An interior ministry spokesperson said they had tried to divide the land and grant each of the heirs their share but one of the parties sued the ministry for defying the court decision and secured a fresh order to return the property to its rightful owners.
That order was issued in November 2018. During the procedure, the court gave the sides 45 days to come to an agreement for the sale of the property.
The deadline has passed and no agreement was achieved and the ministry proceeded to reclaim the property.