Nicosia – Cyprus was left fuming on Sunday after British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife joined a hugely sensitive case involving property in the breakaway Turkish-held north of the divided island.
Cherie Blair, a top lawyer by profession, is representing a British couple, Linda and David Orams, who have been told to demolish their home in the north for illegally building on land belonging to a Greek Cypriot refugee.
Her move threatened to spark a diplomatic incident, with President Tassos Papadopoulos denouncing her involvement as a “provocative action” and the Greek Cypriot media condemning the prime minister’s wife in the harshest terms.
Nationalist Machi newspaper on Sunday described Cherie Blair as a “an advocate to crime” on its front page. It said Blair’s involvement in the Orams’ case was a “bombshell to Cyprus and caused a strong reaction”.
Communist-backed Haravghi said she was “counsel to the embezzlement” of Greek Cypriot property.
Papadopoulos said Nicosia had made its displeasure known to Britain, although he had not raised the issue in person with Tony Blair at last week’s European Union summit in Brussels.
“It’s a provocative action for many reasons, as it is difficult to separate the fact that she is taking a case concerning human rights violations, the right to property, and she is the wife of the British prime minister,” Papadopoulos said on Saturday.
He said the foreign ministry has already made “strong protests” to Britain, even though the British High Commission in Nicosia issued a statement saying Cherie Blair was acting in a “professional capacity”.
The issue is of huge importance to Greek Cypriots as around a third of them owned property in the Turkish Cypriot north before the 1974 Turkish invasion of the island when Turkey intervened following a Athens-orchestrated coup to join Cprus with Greece.
A Cypriot court has ordered the Orams to pay compensation to Meletios Apostolides for building on his property without permission and has threatened to seize their assets in Britain if they do not comply with the local ruling.