Did they hang the wrong persons?
By Ismail Veli ‘Kirlapo’……
In my first article click here on the murder of the priest of Lurucina on 24 September 1924, I went into much detail about the background to what was no doubt a heinous crime. Much explanation and the background leading to the murder was given in detail, since then more archive information has been found, it will never change what happened but reading the letter written to the High Commissioner of Cyprus by the accused’s parents and the trial testimony one cannot get the feeling that something was definitely wrong.
The letter dated 5th December 1924 (click here) was an appeal to commute the sentence of death, and repeating their claim that their sons were simply not capable of such a crime. No doubt the appeal by the parents of the accused can be seen as a last attempt by desperate parents to save the lives of their sons, but on closer inspection there really was something wrong with the court’s decision to hang 2 possible innocents, who by all accounts were simple and unable to defend themselves against all the odds. The appeal failed and the hanging finally took place on 9 December 1924.
The parents confirmed that one of the accused was partially blind while the other partially crippled. They had never been involved in any trouble or crime in their lives. The only eyewitness to the murder of Papa Charalambous Michaelides, was Osman Hasan Garaoli who made an amazing statement that he was forced by the 2 accused at knife point to help with the murder, in addition they apparently took Osman’s bed-sheet to the scene of the crime. The description of the crime related to the court seems to be not of 2 simple and disabled individuals but that of calculating, calm and cold blooded persons. While all this was going on the accused apparently warned Osman Garaoli not to mention anything or they would also kill him. Why would they force a third person to assist, leave him looking on just to warn him off??? One does not need to be a detective to get the feeling something is wrong with the witness testimony.
Strangely Mustafa’s testimony before the end of the trial (click here) needs to be read carefully. He clearly states that the police had put him, and his brother Yusuf under immense pressure to admit to the police that it was Osman Garaoli (his accomplices, if any, are not mentioned) who committed the crime. Reading through the whole court transcript one cannot but get the impression that Osman Garaoli’s testimony against the 2 accused was simply an effort to shift the blame. Sadly the 2 accused by all accounts being much more simple and unable to extricate themselves from what can be described as a set-up were simply not savvy enough to turn the table and the authorities simply went along with the whole debacle in order to close the account. The motive for the murder was given as theft of money and the priest’s attempt to baptise the Muslims of the village
The circumstances and forensics prevailing at the time were much more primitive by today’s standards, even so, the court case seems to have been rushed (only six weeks elapsed from the date of the crime to the end of the trial) and the authorities may have sought to close the case as soon as possible.
One piece of forensics revealed by the doctor who examined the deceased stated that ”There was no blood on the deceased’s garments, nor on his hands, or arms or chest” ( Click here) and yet a shirt belonging to Mustafa was apparently given to the accused’s sister that had a large amount of blood on it. (Click here). Many have claimed that the blood was put deliberately on the accused Mustafa’s shirt, though this theory was never brought up in court and it’s no doubt highly speculative. It’s important to point out that not a single person I have ever spoken to (this includes Greek and Turkish Cypriots) from Lurucina has ever stated that Yusuf and Mustafa were remotely capable of such a crime.
Some have been critical of my research into this subject as they claim it casts a shadow on our village and they prefer to let bygones be bygones. If every individual, historian, blogger, researcher and journalist took that stance, then we may as well scrap all the history books or research into history on the grounds that we don’t wish to embarrass ourselves of crimes others commit in our name, therefore simply denying and hiding the facts of the past. I take the opposite view, history and facts however painful need to be uncovered if only to teach us what was positive, but above all negative. Events that seem clear-cut are not always what they seem, we need to look a little harder at the events of the past in order to educate ourselves on where we did well, but above all where we went wrong.
We may never know the exact truth but this should not stop us from searching for it. Ultimately those opposed to uncovering this debacle should ask themselves the following ”WHAT IF IT WAS MY BROTHERS, SONS OR HUSBAND THAT WERE HANGED’‘.
I for one would search heaven and earth to expose the corruption, and injustice of a system that found it expedient to hang innocents rather than spend more time in finding the real perpetrators. The question is, what would the critics do? HANG THEIR OWN FAMILY MEMBERS TO COVER UP THEIR DISTORTED BELIEF OF WHAT PATRIOTISM REALLY MEANS?
Not in my name thank you.
Court documents from the previous article
Yusuf and Mustafa accused of murder click here
List of court witnesses click here
Part of chief eye-witness Osman Hasan Karaoli’s testimony click here
Part of Dudu Bairam’s testimony click here
Yusuf Bairam Pourounti’s statement to the court click here