20 AUGUST 1988, Page 23

Turkish tales

Sir: Charles Glass's concern for the impris- oned and oppressed (30 July) is admirable and understandable, but it is very hard to believe that 1,619 Greek Cypriots could be held prisoner in Turkey or anywhere else for 14 years without hard evidence of the fact regularly coming to light. And what motive could there be for holding them?

It seems much more likely that they perished during or soon after the fighting in Cyprus in August 1974. In the mid 1970s, Milliyet published photographs of some of the missing men, apparently taken during the fighting, with the claim that they


had been executed by Turkish Cypriot irregulars.

That, sadly, would fit the general pattern of 1974 in Cyprus and not just on one side. A Turkish friend and journalist colleague of mine, ironically a committed advocate of friendship between Turks and Greeks, was shot in captivity by his Greek Cypriot captors. The massacres and mass burials of Turkish Cypriot villagers seem to have been forgotten.

Be that as it may, none of the thousands of political prisoners in Turkey over the last decade has ever mentioned hearing of Greek-Cypriot prisoners.

However in 1980 a student just out of Ankara's military prison at Mamak men- tioned to me that there had been a Main- land Greek student in his cell, one of several students mixed up in Turkish stu- dent radicalism. This Greek had just been released and repatriated. I asked the Greek Embassy in Ankara for details, but they disclaimed any knowledge. Nor did they seem very interested, which they surely would have been had they seriously believed in the story of the captive 1,600 Cypriots.

Pace Mr Glass, it is hard not to feel that the credence this story enjoys arises from ignorance of Turkey and prejudice against it.

David Barchard

Nun Monkton, York