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Turkish Cypriot lawyer released pending trial (Update 2)

feature esra akan kursat
Akan Kursat

Turkish Cypriot lawyer Akan Kursat was released pending a trial on Friday, with his trial set to begin on February 29.

In a hearing at the Nicosia District court, he was ordered to hand over €10,000 in cash as a guarantee and €65,000 in two bank cheques from local banks. He will also be required to present himself to the Ayios Dhometios police station on the first and third Monday of the month.

He was represented in court by Rikkos Mappourides, who said he would plead not guilty to all 20 charges he faces.

He then confirmed that he had been informed about the content of his indictment outside the courtroom with the help of a translator.

The cash guarantee was deposited by his wife, the north’s ‘deputy parliament speaker’ Fazilet Ozdenefe.

He will be allowed to travel back and forth between the north and the Republic during this time, with Cyprus Turkish Bar Association chairman Hasan Esendagli confirming, “we will be returning to the north with Akan in a few hours.”

Kursat was extradited to Cyprus on Thursday night after having been arrested in Italy on New Year’s Eve pursuant to a European arrest warrant put out based on his alleged involvement in the illegal exploitation of Greek Cypriot properties in the north.

Police spokesman Christos Andreou also confirmed on Friday morning that as part of the same case, there are outstanding European arrest warrants for three others.

They include British national Gary Robb, a convicted fraud who built properties on Greek Cypriot land in Klepini on a development known as the “Amaranta Valley Estate” which was never finished.

The others are contractor Tuncel Tahir Soykan and construction engineer Kutsal Tokatlioglu.

Kursat, Soykan, and Tokatlioglu are believed to be linked to Robb’s company Aga Developments, which defrauded a total of 57 people into buying houses in the north which were never completed.

Robb had moved to the north and started the company after the nightclub he owned in his home country was raided by drugs officers in 1997.

Also on Friday, the Cypriot police announced it would make contact with British nationals who were defrauded by Gary Robb regarding properties in Klepini via the United Kingdom’s authorities, with the aim of calling them forward as prosecution witnesses.

They added that they would also be in contact with the properties’ original Greek Cypriot owners regarding the case.

Kursat consented to his own extradition on February 1 after having initially objected on the grounds that he would not be safe in a prison in the Republic, given that a Turkish Cypriot detainee had been killed in 2022.

His arrest is widely perceived in the north as being politically motivated, with Hasan Esendagli saying Kursat had been “taken hostage”.

He criticised the Republic of Cyprus’ approach to the matter, saying the Republic has “created intercommunal and state-wide conflicts by criminalising some acts within its own territory, especially by making it easier to criminalise Turkish Cypriots, and by using the legal advantages which come with membership of the European Union”.

Meanwhile, Tufan Erhurman, leader of the north’s main opposition political party the CTP, the party to which Fazilet Ozdenefe belongs, also expressed his disapproval.

He said the Greek Cypriot side is using the case to “create conditions of concern, and described his arrest as a “political” work.

Turkish Cypriot Leader Ersin Tatar had also reportedly called a “critical” meeting regarding Kursat’s arrest with Turkish Ambassador in Nicosia Metin Feyzioglu, Erhurman, and the north’s chief public prosecutor Sarper Altincik.

Tatar’s only public intervention on the matter so farwas to express that he is “closely following” the case.

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