| CYPRUS PROBLEM |Phileleftheros



I wrote one of the stories of the missing persons of 1974 on 4.03.2012. It was about Kostas Yiangou, the brother of my friend Michalis Yiangou, from Agios Pavlos. And since then, I am reminded of it whenever [I encounter] something about the late former Minister of Defence, Kostas Papakostas. And now also that he was posthumously vindicated by the Nicosia District Court, I thought of him high up on the Pentadaktylos [mountains], leading a battalion of beardless children, fighting day and night with light rifles, and leading them down from St. Hilarion to Nicosia, saving them from Death’s jaws.

It was the 301 Infantry Battalion, which upon its arrival at Kontemenos, according to the battalion report, only six were missing: Kostas Savva Yiangou – Agios Pavlos, Kostas Petrou Konstantinou – Evrychou, Charalambos Potamitis – Morphou, Dimitris Theocharides – Nicosia, Christos Chrysostomou – Pallouriotissa, Dimitris Neophytou Panayi – Salamiou.

Kostas Yiangou, 23 years old in 1974, a plumber by profession, left behind his 19-year-old wife, Nitsa, and his three-month-old daughter, Maria, on July 20, and together with 301 Infantry Battalion, headed by Captain Kostas Papakostas, set off for the front. On 22 July, with an attack from Agios Ermolaos, they occupied a rugged hill on Pentadaktylos, above the T/C village of Pileri. On 26 July, they were attacked by paratroopers and armoured vehicles from the direction of St. Hilarion. The battalion retreated, under cover of fire from six soldiers who, holed up in a natural bunker on the hill, with one bren, one sten and four rifles, gave their comrades-in-arms the opportunity to retreat and save themselves.

The adventure of the betrayal of ’74 was told to me by Papakostas himself in a courtyard in Old Aglantzia, a few days before the tragedy at Mari, because he knew that I was investigating the issue of the missing persons. What happened to the six? In 2008, Kostas Yiangou’s brother Michalis, seeing that the exhumations of the missing were proceeding at a slow pace, decided to take matters into his own hands. He went to Papakostas, who drew him a rough map of the hill at Pileri, and in August he began a year-long search in those rugged areas. In August 2009, as he continued his search, he was approached by an 80-year-old T/C shepherd, who told him: “They have already started asking about you, you’ll get into trouble. Tell me what you have been searching for for so long, maybe I can help you.” Michalis explained to him, and the shepherd told him that he knew where the six were. In fact, he told him that days after the fighting on the hill, when he passed that spot with his flock, he saw wild dogs gathered there, and drove them off, and since the ground was rocky, he covered the area with stones. The next day, the shepherd drove Michalis up to a point on the mountain with his tractor and from there Michalis climbed to the top on foot.  He found the spot, moved some stones and started to find human bones. He found them all. They identified them after three years, by which time their parents had died. Their sacrifice wasn’t enough to keep Pentadaktylos free…

That’s probably why – I think – one of the lawyers of the Papakosta family wrote on Twitter (31.05.2023), “they kept Papakostas locked up in a room for 657 days. He was not allowed to leave the ward, to see the light of day and to breathe fresh air.”

Who? Kostas Papakosta, who according to his biography, was born in Agia Triada in Famagusta on 12.11.1939. He studied at Greece’s Supreme War College and the Hellenic Military Academy and received further training at special police schools in the USA and Germany. He participated in the EOKA struggle of 1955-1959, in the 1963-64 operations and the Turkish invasion of 1974. He served in the Cyprus Army and the National Guard for 18 years, reaching the rank of Colonel. In 1973 he was transferred to the Reserve Corps to deal with the illegal activities of EOKA B. During the coup he developed resistance activities, for which he was arrested, abused and imprisoned. In 1978 he was reassigned to the Police and he set up the Emergency Response Unit (MMAD), which aims to combat terrorism and organised crime. This was followed by his permanent appointment to the police in 1984, with the rank of Senior Police Officer. He reached the rank of Deputy Chief of Police. He resigned in January 1996, in protest against the bad practices in the force. Immediately afterwards he was elected as a Famagusta MP for three terms with AKEL. On 1 March 2008 he was appointed Minister of Defence in the government of Demetris Christofias. On 11 July 2011, the day of the explosion at the ‘Evangelos Florakis’ naval base, he submitted his resignation. In July 2013, the Nicosia Criminal Court found him guilty on charges of manslaughter and of causing death by reckless, careless or dangerous act and conduct, in relation to the Mari explosion. He died critically ill in prison in September 2015, with his repeated requests for a presidential pardon going unheeded.

Why did the then President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades and the Minister of Justice Ionas Nicolaou disregard him and prevent him from seeing the light of day for 657 days? The truth is obvious but difficult to put on paper in a court decision. Why, because he was not a participant of the coup d’état of course! The 62 [participants] were compensated and the rest were appointed [to a government position]. My grandfather used to say that “here is where everything is paid” [Translator’s note: Greek idiom meaning ‘what goes around comes around’]. Do you think so?




Andreas Paraschos was born in Larnaca in 1958. He spent his childhood, until 1967, in a mixed Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot neighbourhood during a turbulent period. He attended the American Academy in Larnaca, sharing the class with Turkish Cypriots – a significant experience which proved very useful in his later years as a journalist. He studied international journalism in Moscow until 1987, during which he experienced momentous changes in the country. Returning to Cyprus, he worked in various roles at newspapers (Embros, Phileleftheros, Politis, Kathimerini), radio stations (Radio Super, RIK's Third Programme), and TV channels (ANT1, ALFA). In 1995, he started to investigate the great humanitarian issue of the missing persons of the Cyprus Tragedy, which he continues to this day. Since 2021, he has been working as a freelance journalist and continues to write his Sunday column in the Phileleftheros newspaper.

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