House Legal Committee discusses bill on European arrest warrants
Nicosia, Jan 21 (CNA) -- A bill, submitted to the Cyprus House Legal Committee, will entitle the local district courts to issue European arrest warrants and to increase the jail sentence, provided by existing legislation, in connection with the illegal use or possession of immovable property.
The amendment, if approved by the House plenary, would mean that anybody, including nationals of European Union countries, who are using or have taken possession of Greek Cypriot property in Turkish occupied Cyprus without the permission of the owner of that property could face court proceedings.
Speaking after the behind closed doors discussion, Committee President Ionas Nikolaou said current legislation provides for a six- month jail sentence or a 400 pounds fine, a provision in place for the past 40 years.
He explained that unless these penalties are amended, district courts cannot issue European arrest warrants because to do so, the offence must carry a jail sentence exceeding twelve months.
Responding to questions, he said the amendment proposed is of a very general nature and could apply to many cases and added ''irrespective of any other issues that may arise in connection with the execution of such warrants, we believe this can act to the benefit of Greek Cypriot properties being usurped in Turkish occupied Cyprus.''
He explained that a person against whom a European warrant had been issued can be arrested by the authorities of any of the 25 EU member states, where he or she is residing.
Persons who are using or have taken possession of immovable property, against the will of the owner of that property, can be arrested through the issue of a European arrest warrant, he added.
The mayor of the Turkish occupied town of Famagusta Yiannakis Skordis has charged that in the recent past there has been and continuous to be a construction boom in occupied areas which had in previous years been left intact.
He said he had sent protest letters to various organisations abroad, asking them to take measures and explain to legal experts and real estate agents that what they involve themselves in could compromise their position.
Nicosia District Court ordered a British couple to raise to the ground a villa they had built on land in Turkish occupied Cyprus, belonging to a Greek Cypriot. The case is before the appeals court now.
Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37 per cent of its territory.