NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — About three dozen Cypriots who alleged they were tortured while in custody during fighting against British colonial rule more than 60 years ago said Thursday that they feel vindicated after the U.K. government agreed to pay them 1 million pounds ($1.3 million).
Britain's Foreign Office Minister Alan Duncan announced late Wednesday that the settlement isn't an "admission of liability" or a "precedent" for any future claims against the U.K. He said Britain regrets the violence and loss of life that preceded Cypriot independence.
"We must not forget the past and indeed we must learn from it," Duncan said in a statement. "But it is most important to look to the future."
He said the U.K. reaffirms its commitment to strengthen its already close ties with Cyprus "built on shared values of mutual respect and full equality."
Thassos Sophocleous, who heads an association of former fighters who waged a four-year armed campaign just prior to Cyprus' 1960 independence, said that the 33 Cypriots see the out-of-court settlement as the British government's acknowledgement that they were tortured while in the hands of British authorities.
Sophocleous, 85, claims the beatings he received for 17 straight days while in British custody damaged his knees and fractured vertebrae.
The settlement ends a nearly seven-year dispute in Cypriot and British courts launched by the Cypriots after Kenyans successfully took similar legal action of their own.
One of the Cypriots' lawyers, Christos Clerides, told The Associated Press that the settlement is an "indirect admission" by the U.K. government that unlawful acts were committed against Cypriots during the EOKA guerrilla campaign whose aim was union with Greece.
Clerides said that the former fighters will also receive around 3 million pounds ($3.9 million) to cover legal costs. He said the U.K. government likely moved to settle the case because it wanted to avoid having details of the alleged torture made public during a trial that was scheduled to start later this year.
The Cyprus government, meanwhile, hailed the settlement as a "courageous act" by Britain, adding that the "passions of the past" should be consigned to history as both countries aim to improve already "excellent relations."
Britain still retains two military bases on Cyprus. Last year, more than 1.3 million Britons spent their holidays on the east Mediterranean island nation