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Nikos Sampson (Nicos Sampson; Greek: Νίκος Σαμψών; December 16, 1935 – May 9, 2001) was the de facto president of Cyprus who succeeded Archbishop Makarios, President of Cyprus, in 1974.[1] Sampson was a journalist and a member of EOKA, which rose against the British colonial administration, seeking Enosis (Union) of the island of Cyprus with Greece. After Cyprus's eventual independence (instead of Enosis), in 1960, and the formation of the Republic of Cyprus, he entered politics, becoming a member of Parliament. Following the coup of 1974 by the Greek Junta, he was appointed President, and remained in the position for eight days. Following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus on July 20th he resigned. He was later sentenced to twenty years in prison for abuse of power, the only person convicted vis-à-vis the coup, maintaining there had been a setup and cover up, an assertion which to this date has not been corroborated or dismissed. He served most of his sentence in France due to poor health, where he had gone for medical treatment. He returned to Cyprus in 1990, and was pardoned the remainder of his sentence in 1993. He died of cancer in 2001.

The EOKA period

Sampson was born in the Cypriot port city of Famagusta to Sampson Georgiadis and Theano Liasidou. During his teenage years, he was a promising right back in the second team of Anorthosis Famagusta football club. He began his working life at a Nicosia newspaper, The Times of Cyprus, which was owned by Charles Foley. His original name was Nikos Georgiadis, but he adopted his father's forename as his (public) surname, a common custom in Cyprus in those days.It helped to distinguish him from others who bore his surname (Georgiades). During the EOKA resistance campaign against British rule in Cyprus, waged from 1955 to 1959, he adopted the nom de guerre Atrotos (Greek: Áτρωτος), or Invulnerable.

In Greece, Turkey and Cyprus, the 1950s were marked by a rise in nationalistic fervour. Since its inception in 1955, the EOKA organisation actively recruited young patriots during the period of its struggle. Joining EOKA, the young Sampson became known to the British Army and police as one of EOKA's most feared resistance fighters. He participated in a number of killings carried out along Ledra Street, including three police sergeants, for one of which Sampson was tried in May 1957. He confessed but was acquitted on the grounds that his confession may have been coerced by torture.[2][3] By March 1959, when the shooting ended, 509 people had died, of whom 156 were British soldiers and police.

The British, fearing a pan-Cypriot anti-colonial revolt, increasingly employed Turkish Cypriots in government offices, especially, in the police force. This put Greeks and Turks into direct confrontation with one another. Some of the casualties during EOKA's struggle against British rule would be these Turkish Cypriots. Turkish reprisals, organised by the TMT, were carried out in the form of riots and attacks on Greek homes and businesses. Mistrust and resentment was on the ascendancy. Around this time, Turkey shifted its strategic goal for Cyprus from annexation (union with Turkey) to the pursuit of partition.

At the time, Sampson was working as a journalist and he used to photograph dead bodies to be published in the newspaper he was working for. The police became suspicious about how Sampson was always the first reporter to arrive at the murder scene and he was arrested. Only a month after his acquittal, he was given away by informants and arrested in the village of Dhali. He was convicted of weapons possession which, under the emergency regulations of the moment, carried a death sentence. The death sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment and Sampson was flown to the United Kingdom to serve it. A year and a half later, under a general amnesty as part of the 1959 Zürich and London Agreement, he was released but he remained in exile in Greece until Cyprus gained formal independence in August 1960. He returned to Nicosia shortly after Independence Day, receiving a hero's welcome.

The 1960s

Sampson returned to newspaper publishing. In 1960 he set up the newspaper Makhi (Greek: Μάχη), meaning battle, or struggle, which was one of the first Greek newspapers in circulation in the nation of Cyprus. In 1961, in a series of newspaper articles, he admitted his responsibility for the death of the police officers in 1956 during the resistance campaign against British rule. According to the Telegraph, as a journalist, he flew to Algeria to interview Ben Bella and to Washington to talk to U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Following an explosion to the statue of EOKA hero Markos Drakos in Nicosia, Sampson actively participated in clashes between the Greek and Turkish communities in December 1963. On the morning of 24 December, the clashes in Nicosia spread and fighting continued into the subsequent year. The fiercest fighting took place in Constantia, Neapolis, Ledra Palace and, especially, the suburb of Omorphita (Kucuk Kaymakli) which had a majority Turkish Cypriot population. In Omorfita, Sampson led armed groups in fierce battles between Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot irregulars after the Greek Cypriot families living in the suburb came under heavy fire from Turkish Cypriot militias who were aiming at bringing the whole suburb under Turkish Cypriot control[4]. According to American sources there were 17 dead, most of them Turkish Cypriots, and 70 wounded. Because of the fight in Omorphita, Nikos Sampson was nicknamed by the Turkish Cypriots as the "Butcher of Omorphita".[5][6] In total, it is estimated that the whole intercommunal war cost the lives of about 350 Turkish Cypriot and 200 Greek Cypriot. The result of these clashes was the departure of the Turkish Cypriots from government and the segregation of the Turkish Cypriot community into enclaves. The United Nations responded by dispatching a peacekeeping force to Cyprus. The precise nature of the role of these troops, mostly British troops, has been the subject of some controversy.
Nikos Sampson carries a Turkish flag captured during his attack on Ormophita, a Nicosia suburb. His militia and those of other Greek Cypriot ministers led to a near civil war when the Turkish Cypriots responded in kind in late December 1963. Turkish Cypriot civilian hostages can be seen behind.

In 1967, a military Junta came to power in Greece. That same year, a further outbreak of intercommunal violence in Cyprus nearly precipitated war between Greece and Turkey but the situation was stabilized by a mutual reduction of their armed contingents on the island.

The 1974 coup
Main article: 1974 Cypriot coup d'état

In 1970 Sampson became a member of the Parliament of Cyprus as a founder and leader of one of the main parties of Cyprus, the Progressive Party (Proodeftikoi). In a poll, Sampson's Party was voted second most popular in Famagusta district and fourth overall. In 1971, EOKA head George Grivas returned to Cyprus and gave the campaign for enosis further momentum, forming EOKA B whose goal was enosis. To the dismay of President Makarios, who advocated independence, the government, police and military forces quickly became infiltrated with supporters of EOKA-B. Following the death of Grivas in January 1974, the Greek military junta of 1967-1974 gave active support to EOKA-B. Nikos Sampson maintained a strong nationalist, pro-Greek position throughout these years, earning himself positive and negative feedback at the same time and marking himself as a figure of controversy.

Interim President of Cyprus

On July 15, 1974, Makarios was deposed by a military coup which was led by Greek officers of the Cyprus National Guard and Sampson succeeded him as Cyprus' second President. The Greek military junta installed Sampson as President, having picked him from a list of "several candidates".[7] His regime had gathered and detained more than a thousand Makarios supporters. His claim to the presidency was that he allegedly had the ability to avert civil war through his influence of key people in the rising, conflicting factions.

Resignation and aftermath of coup

Turkey had signed up to the 1960 constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, as one of three Guarantor powers, which committed her to defend the sovereignty and territory of the Republic. But Sampson's government, which was illegal under the constitution of Cyprus, and international law, failed to gain international recognition. Fighting was rife between the Makarios backers and Sampson's followers, with an estimated 1,000 Greek militia being killed within 5 days of the chaos that followed the invasion by the Greek junta. With 60,000 Turkish Cypriots holed up in enclaves across the island (Famagusta, Limmasol, Larnaca, Polis) Turkey launched the Attila Plan, a military invasion of the Republic. The Turkish forces were largely contained for a while on the northern coast as part of phase 1, whilst international negotiations with Britain (the other civilian guarantor government) and the UN were conducted to reach an agreement on how to protect the Turkish Cypriots from the openly racist puppet "government". The fragile Athens-based junta, divided and increasingly unpopular in Greece, was unable to intervene and key arms supplies disappeared from Cyprus' own military bases. As a result of the crisis, the Greek junta collapsed and, only eight days after his appointment, Sampson was forced to resign. The Greek Cypriot government was restored under Glafkos Clerides. After several weeks of political wrangling, On 14th August Turkey continued its advance and took control of more than a third of the island. The EOKA B guerilla fighters and the Cypriot National guard were divided in their objectives of holding back the initial Turkish invasion, and carrying out atrocities against Turkish Cypriots. Thousands were reported either dead or missing, the majority of them Greek Cypriot. Following the resumption of fighting on 14th August Some of The villagers of Murataga and Sandallar villages were massacred with 90 elderly, women and children being buried in mass graves.Sampson was pardoned for his role after the coup by the re-installed Makarios, but the pardon was then repealed.

Imprisonment and later years

The invasion lost Sampson much of his popular appeal. He claimed not to have anticipated the impending coup that had installed him, adding that, after military officers had insisted, he "saw the possibility of civil war and accepted"[8] in order to prevent the clashes. Nonetheless, Sampson was prosecuted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for abuse of power (nosfisi eksousias) (Greek: Νόσφηση Εξουσίας) in 1976.

In 1979, only three years into his prison sentence, he was allowed to go to France on medical grounds. Living in Neuilly, and then in Fourqueux, he was supported by funds of friends. He spent much of his time between Paris and Marseilles before returning to Cyprus in June 1990 to complete his sentence.

Following his release from Nicosia Central Prison in 1993, he went back to the newspaper publishing business. He remarked in an interview that others who had been involved in the struggles later went on to take up respectable positions in government while he had been singled out for blame but had remained silent for the sake of the people. Having evaded a number of attempts on his life, both in Cyprus and in France, he finally succumbed to cancer following a protracted bout. On May 10, 2001, he died in Nicosia.

He is survived by his wife and two children, one of whom is a lawyer and the other a journalist.


^ Cook, Chris; Diccon Bewes (1997). What Happened Where: A Guide to Places and Events in Twentieth-century History. Routledge. p. 65. ISBN 1857285336.
^ "Time Mellows The Smiling Killer: Athos Petrides"
^ "EOKA shooters and bombers "
^ James Ker-Lindsay, "Britain and the Cyprus Crisis 1963-64" (2004)
^ S. Akhtar Ali. Pakistan & Gulf economist, Volume 4, Issues 27-52 (1985), Economist Publications, p.7: No wonder that Sampson was elected to the Greek Cypriot House of Representatives in 1969 on the slogan: "Death to the Turks" and was described as the Butcher of Omorphita for his part in the massacre.
^ Newsweek, Volume 84, Issues 1-14 (1974), Newsweek, p.46: Many of his terrorist attacks took place near the town of Omorphita, and among Turkish Cypriots Sampson is still known as "The Butcher of Omorphita."
^ Mallinson, William (June 30, 2005). Cyprus: A Modern History. I. B. Tauris. p. 81. ISBN 978-1850435808.
^ "Mr Nicos Sampson denies he knew coup was coming". The Times Digital Archive (Reuters). July 26, 1974. Retrieved 2008-05-02.

Cyprus. By Paul D. Hellander, 2003 ISBN 1-74059-122-4
The Cyprus Question and the Turkish Position in International Law By Zaim M. Necatigil, 1993 ISBN 0-19-825846-1

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