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State paid millions to settle claims with Turkish Cypriots

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The state has paid tens of millions of euros to settle claims with Turkish Cypriots seeking compensation for the use of their properties in government-controlled areas – with hundreds more cases pending.

There are 150 cases before the courts with another 100 requests being made to the guardian of Turkish Cypriot properties (the interior minister). Politis reported that another 25 cases were resolved by settlements between the two parties.

It added that about 20 cases involving Turkish Cypriot land were resolved with damages being paid to the tune of €25 million.

The complex and sensitive issue means that only a few are eligible to take court action or receive compensation, specifically those of Cypriot origin, but who left the island prior to its independence. As such, the original owners – or their descendants – are not viewed as Turkish Cypriots living abroad, as they never received Cypriot citizenship.

Such cases are best highlighted by that of ‘Mackenzie Estate’.

Indeed, Larnaca district court ruled in 2016 that property had unlawfully been placed under the control of the Turkish Cypriot property guardian (interior minister). Therefore, the Mackenzie Estate had been built illegally.

The owner of that land was Turkish Cypriot Fikret Ali Riza and the legal inheritor was his son, Reymond Riza. The son, in turn, took legal action against the government and the property guardian – seeking the property be returned, along with damages.

His dad was born in Larnaca in 1926 and later moved to England in 1951, where he died in 2000. His son was born in England in 1955, therefore neither father nor son were ever classified as Cypriot citizens.

The Republic has taken this route as many Turkish Cypriots received Greek Cypriot properties after the division in 1974, making them ineligible to make claims on their property in the government-controlled areas.

The position relied on by the government in court is that Turkish Cypriots who received Greek Cypriot properties in the north are not entitled to reclaim previous properties in the government-controlled areas.

Politis reported that lawyers arguing for the Turkish Cypriots are trying to overturn that legislation so their clients can reclaim these properties.

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