Δευτέρα, 4 Μαρτίου 2013

Home About RSS Feed CYPRUS / RAF SPY TRIAL ( 1985 )

Robert Fisk on how the trial, and acquittal, of British servicemen looks from Cyprus

 The Troodos Mountains, Cyprus.
 To the clientele of the Rialto Hotel in Kakopetria the young English couple who stayed one night in March of 1984 seemed an innocuous pair. The man was in his mid- thirties with a neat moustache and beard. His wife had closely-cropped reddish-blonde hair and wore a matronly brown pullover and skirt. The only strange thing about her husband was his habit of taking photographs of almost everyone in the bar.
George  Artemiou , the acting manager of the Rialto was celebrating his birthday that night with his Filipino wife Cora and he felt sorry for the English pair. So he invited them to join the party. He has regretted it ever since. Cora took some snapshots to celebrate the occasion. But the Englishman – as Cora now remembers – took dozens of photographs. He took pictures of Cora and George. He took pictures of a middle-aged businessman and of a local police constable. But he paid particular attention to a pipe-smoking, bespectacled man with greying hair and a passion for backgammon who just happened to be the local head of the Kypriagi Ipiracea Bliroforion ,the Cyprus intelligence service.
His name was Costas Elenas and he, too, regrets the couple’s visit. For shortly after George Artemiou’s birthday, an English friend of Cora’s identified the young couple as British intelligence agents based at Dhekelia where Britain maintains one of its two bases in Cyprus. An English acquaintance of the Artemious who was at the party found herself interrogated by British military police. Then Cora and her husband were invited down to the Cyprus government’s immigration department in Nicosia to answer questions – separately and in front of a serious looking, plainclothes Cypriot policeman about the birthday party.
The police asked to study Cora’s photograph album in which she had pasted snapshots of the young RAF men who used to come to the Rialto for Saturday night drinks in the months before the party. "They asked me if I’d seen any strangers talking to the English boys," she said. "They asked if I’d seen any Russians talking to them in the hotel." Then Costas Elenas – so close a friend that he was best man at George’s wedding – suddenly found himself branded as a senior officer in the KGB, the Soviet intelligence service.
Elenas, who stoutly insists he is a loyal Cypriot, faithful only to his country and to the intelligence service for which he works – the Cypriot one – believes the English couple were responsible for what he now calls a "libel" against him.
He told the Artemious that his promotion to inspector was postponed because of allegations in London to which he was not allowed to reply. But neither he nor anyone else in Kakopetria has any doubt why the British should look for spies in Cyprus. For on the very highest peak of the Troodos range, stand three huge white domes, inside which turn some of the most’ sensitive radar dishes that NATO possesses, scanning the Soviet Crimea, the Gulf, the Indian Ocean and Libya for any hint of missile activity.
The Troodos radar, part of NATO’s southern defences, is supplemented by sophisticated radio antennae on the British sovereign bases at Dhekzia, in the village of Ayious Nikolaos and at Episkopi. These two stations operate an intercept system linked to "Sigint" in the UK. It was at Troodos and at Ayios Nikolaos that the eight British servicemen acquitted at the Old Bailey, the last two found not guilty yesterday, worked.
 As often happens in such cases, however, the verdict has cleared the accused without fully restoring the good name of those outsiders whose reputation was called into question in court. Even before the case had ended in London, the press in Nicosia had been hinting that British intelligence deliberately concocted false evidence in the hope of "hardening" the accusations. In a nation in which leftist parties are constantly questioning Britain’s right to maintain bases in Cyprus, this could turn out to have very serious repercussions. There is another possible explanation for the rumours.
The prosecution told the Old Bailey jury that the descriptions of contacts given by the defendants might have been "deliberately misleading". Whether details of foreign agents given by the accused were accurate or truthful was "a matter of very considerable doubt", the court was told, because "’this disinformation was part of a deliberate plan, designed to confuse and mislead their interrogators, and in particular to protect the foreign agents from identification". The allegations made in the prosecution’s opening statement at the Old Bailey claimed that at least three of the eight accused met a "foreign" agent in the "Village Pub" at Kakopetria near the Rialto Hotel in 1982, and that this man identified himself as "Costas Demetriades" and later as "Major Alexei Constantin" of the KGB. Costas Elenas thinks he was named as "Demetriades".
Elenas’s own superiors questioned him about the allegation. Elenas says he offered to travel to London to try to clear his name but that no court summons was ever issued for him to appear at the Old Bailey. "Alex" was also said to have met at least one of the British servicemen, Wayne Kriehn, at the Rialto Hotel in 1983, and Kriehn was accused of meeting the "Soviet agent" a week later at 64 Makanos the Third Avenue, Nicosia – the office, so the court was told, of a Cypriot theatrical agent called Papa Artine.
Papa Artine – his real name is Artine Bahadorian – does indeed have an office at the address given, and he agrees that he booked a Filipino dance troupe called the "Ladybirds" into Chiquito’s Nightclub in Larnaca where, one of the British servicemen, Geoffrey Jones, was supposed to have become infatuated with a dancer called Josie. But Artine, a portly man who says he has never met any Russian agents, and never wants to insists that what was said about him at the Old Bailey was completely untrue. Even the Old Bailey prosecution, however, admitted that the description given of Papa Artine in court "bears no relation" to the theatrical agent. Similar confusion surrounded a building in Demosthenes Severus Avenue in Nicosia in which the British servicemen were supposed to have handed in secret documents to the Russian agent. The building was variously described as "a small house” which bore outside it the sign of Aeroflot, “the Soviet airline” and "the Aeroflot building".
It was in February 1984 that Aircraftman Geoffrey Jones war, first questioned about the alleged spies in Cyprus. The court in London heard that he met an Arab called "John" in LUrnaca and that they met again in the town’s Tsokkus Hotel Apartments. The manager of the apartments, Nicos Nicolaos, remembers that John was the nickname of an Arab whose real name was Mohamed Alia Al-Kahezi, who stayed several times in Block 7 of the apartments, usually in room 54. Al-Kahezi’s name appears several times in the apartment registers, first as a Ymeni citizen with passport number 808914 and then as a Saudi citizen – strangely, with the same passport number – in 1984. In the same register on January 21, 1984, appears the following entry: “A/C (Aircraftman) Jones, British passport L8188796, born 1963 … RAF identity card, departed 22/1/84."
But there the Cyprus trail appears to end. A Cypriot intelligence man, a middle-aged theatrical agent, a broken-down house in Nicosia and a series of names in an apartment register – including an Arab with two nationalities and an RAF serviceman who gave his ID card as evidence of his identity – appear to be the only evidence of a spy story that fell to pieces at the Old Bailey yesterday. It will be left to historians to ask whether something more sinister led to the prosecutions. There are those on the island – Greek-Cypriots but a few British servicemen as well – who suspect that a conflict between intelligence services may have led to the spy charges in the first place, that some British intelligence units fear that the Cyprus police may also work for the Russians.
it is certainly true that some Cypriot intelligence men believe the Americans are trying to set up their own radar and radio intercept stations in the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus, and that the British may be conniving in this operation. Demeaning the reputation of the Cyprus intelligence service could – in the eyes of some Cypriots – assist such a project. Who, after all, would object to a new US defence system in the Turkish zone if the Greek- Cypriot police appeared to be working for the Russians?

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Παρακαλούνται οι φίλοι που καταθέτουν τις απόψεις τους να χρησιμοποιούν ψευδώνυμο για να διευκολύνεται ο διάλογος. Μηνύματα τα οποία προσβάλλουν τον συγγραφέα του άρθρου, υβριστικά μηνύματα ή μηνύματα εκτός θέματος θα διαγράφονται. Προτιμήστε την ελληνική γλώσσα αντί για greeklish.