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Akan Kursat ‘committed no crime on either side of Cyprus’

esendagli presser
Hasan Esendagli speaking at the press conference

Turkish Cypriot lawyer Akan Kursat, who is currently on bail after being extradited to Cyprus from Italy, “committed no crime on either side of the island,” Cyprus Turkish Bar Association chairman Hasan Esendagli said on Friday.

Esendagli gave a press conference at the Cyprus Turkish Bar Association’s headquarters in northern Nicosia and said “it can be clearly seen that there was no criminal act. We have full faith that this fact will be revealed in court at the end of this process.”

He added that it is “neither legally nor humanitarianly acceptable for the Greek Cypriot side to criminalise acts committed in North Cyprus, where it has no judicial authority or sovereignty.”

He said that such acts on the part of the Republic’s authorities “put Turkish Cypriots in a position where they are criminalised,” and in doing so are creating the conditions for “dangerous subsequent steps” on both sides.

He added that Kursat denies all 20 charges brought against him.

He added that “all of the accusations were related to the possession, use, and sale of some immovable property in Kyrenia, of which the pre-1974 owners were Greek Cypriots, and for which title deeds were given by the TRNC.”

Speaking about Kursat’s arrest in Italy, Esendagli said he was “deprived of his freedom in adverse conditions in a prison in Rome for around 40 days.”

He added that Kursat consented to his extradition “because he had no reservations about being tried on these matters.”

On the case itself, he said it is “not possible to see the current process as a normal judicial process.”

It is not fair, correct, or legal to resort to criminal instruments targeting Turkish Cypriots individually regarding the matter of property, which is one of the most important topics of the political dispute between the two sides,” he said.

He added that it Is “wrong and unfair to restrict the freedom of travel provided to the Turkish Cypriot people within the scope of their rights arising from the Republic of Cyprus,” and said such acts “create an environment of anxiety” among Turkish Cypriots.

“If this mistake is not reversed and cases against individuals increase in number, it will be our duty to encourage our citizens to seek and demand their rights within the framework of international law,” he said.

Concluding his remarks, he pointed out that “the arrest warrant was issued in 2007, and since 2007, Kursat has crossed over to the Greek Cypriot side through the official crossing points many times, has flown from Larnaca airport, has renewed his passport and identity card, and has travelled to Europe, including to Italy, before.

He has been to many countries. Why now? That is a matter of personal opinion at this point,” he said.

Kursat appeared in court in Nicosia on February 9, when he was released pending a trial which is set to begin on February 29.

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.

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

Police spokesman Christos Andreou also confirmed at the time 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.

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.

Esendagli had previously charged that 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.

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