Cypriots ‘vindicated’ after UK settlement of torture claims

British soldiers search a Greek Orthodox priest in Cyprus in 1955. (Getty Images)
Updated 24 January 2019
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Cypriots ‘vindicated’ after UK settlement of torture claims

  • Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan said Britain regrets the violence and loss of life that preceded Cypriot independence
  • £1 million settlement ends a nearly seven-year dispute in Cypriot and British courts launched by the Cypriots after Kenyans successfully took similar legal action of their own

NICOSIA, Cyprus: About three dozen Cypriots who alleged they were tortured while in custody during fighting against British colonial rule more than 60 years ago said Thursday that they feel vindicated after the UK government agreed to pay them £1 million ($1.3 million).
Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan announced late Wednesday that the settlement isn’t an “admission of liability” or a “precedent” for any future claims against the UK. He said Britain regrets the violence and loss of life that preceded Cypriot independence.
“We must not forget the past and indeed we must learn from it,” Duncan said in a statement. “But it is most important to look to the future.”
He said the UK reaffirms its commitment to strengthen its already close ties with Cyprus “built on shared values of mutual respect and full equality.”
Thassos Sophocleous, who heads an association of former fighters who waged a four-year armed campaign just prior to Cyprus’ 1960 independence, said that the 33 Cypriots see the out-of-court settlement as the British government’s acknowledgement that they were tortured while in the hands of British authorities.
Sophocleous, 85, claims the beatings he received for 17 straight days while in British custody damaged his knees and fractured vertebrae.
The settlement ends a nearly seven-year dispute in Cypriot and British courts launched by the Cypriots after Kenyans successfully took similar legal action of their own.
One of the Cypriots’ lawyers, Christos Clerides, told The Associated Press that the settlement is an “indirect admission” by the UK government that unlawful acts were committed against Cypriots during the EOKA guerrilla campaign whose aim was union with Greece.
Clerides said that the former fighters will also receive around 3 million pounds ($3.9 million) to cover legal costs. He said the UK government likely moved to settle the case because it wanted to avoid having details of the alleged torture made public during a trial that was scheduled to start later this year.
The Cyprus government, meanwhile, hailed the settlement as a “courageous act” by Britain, adding that the “passions of the past” should be consigned to history as both countries aim to improve already “excellent relations.”
Britain still retains two military bases on Cyprus. Last year, more than 1.3 million Britons spent their holidays on the east Mediterranean island nation.


Bulgaria seizes 288 kilos of heroin in truck from Iran

Updated 18 April 2019
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Bulgaria seizes 288 kilos of heroin in truck from Iran

  • Two men — the Iranian truck driver and a Turkish man, who was allegedly to receive the drugs in Bulgaria — were detained and indicted for drug trafficking

SOFIA: Bulgarian customs officials confiscated more than 288 kilo (635 pounds) of heroin hidden on a truck from Iran, prosecutors announced Thursday.

The haul is the biggest amount of heroin seized at Bulgaria’s borders this year, the customs agency said.

Two men — the Iranian truck driver and a Turkish man, who was allegedly to receive the drugs in Bulgaria — were detained and indicted for drug trafficking, the Haskovo regional prosecution said in a statement. They risk jail terms from 15 to 20 years, it added.

The drugs were placed in 144 packages hidden inside the floor and ceiling of a spray painting machine transported inside the truck.

It was found when the vehicle was X-rayed upon entering Bulgaria from Turkey at the southeastern Kapitan Andreevo border checkpoint on Sunday, but the seizure was only announced on Thursday.

Bulgaria, which lies on the so-called Balkan drugs route from the Middle East to Western Europe, has seen a several-fold increase in heroin seizures over the past three years.

In 2018, the customs agency confiscated a total of 994 kilos of heroin at the country’s borders, a rise of 13 percent from 2017.