NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cypriots who fought against British colonial rule in the 1950s plan to sue the U.K. government for torture they allegedly suffered at the hands of British authorities while in custody, an official said Wednesday.
Thassos Sophocleous, president of an organization representing former Cypriot fighters, said the British law firm K.J. Conroy & Co. is now gathering information from them to build a case following this month's landmark ruling from Britain's High Court, which found that three Kenyans tortured during a rebellion against British colonial rule can seek compensation.
Sophocleous, 79, a former guerrilla fighter, claims he was tortured for 17 straight days after his 1956 arrest, including being flogged and having the soles of his feet and knees clubbed. He said some 60 individuals already have completed questionnaires detailing what had allegedly endured. He said the lawyers will select the strongest responses to build the case.
Sophocleous said such a Cypriot claim would not be about money but the satisfaction of forcing British authorities to own up to acts of torture allegedly committed during the four-year guerrilla campaign that culminated in Cyprus' independence in 1960.
"As in all turning points in history, it's not the people who are responsible, but some leaders who are in power when these things happened and they bear the responsibility," he said.
His organization, the National Organization of Cypriot Fighters, was formed by Greek Cypriots seeking to unite the island with Greece, but a compromise deal for independence was struck amid strong opposition from the minority Turkish Cypriots. The country was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.