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Polycarpos Georgatzis (Greek:Πολύκαρπος Γεωρκάτζης) (pronounced Yorkadjis) was a Cypriot politician. He served as the first Minister of the Interior of the Republic of Cyprus.[1] He also served as provisional minister of Labour in the period leading to Cyprus being proclaimed an independent state. Before entering the political stage he fought for EOKA. His political career evolved from a staunch supporter of Makarios to becoming one of the archbishop's principal political rivals. He was assassinated in 1970.


EOKA years

Georgadzis joined the ranks of EOKA in his twenties and assumed the nom de guerre Laertes. He became regional commander of EOKA operations in Nicosia. He was nicknamed the Houdini in reference to his several successful escapes including once on 31 August 1956 from the Nicosia hospital[2] and once from Nicosia Central Prisons on 2 May 1958.[3] After the end of the struggle he claimed to have been tortured whilst held captive by the colonial security forces.[4]

Political career

Provisional Minister of Labour

Georgadtzis was appointed Minister of Labour in the transitional government set up immediately before the Republic of Cyprus became independent. The Ministry of Labour, however, was effectively run by Tassos Papadopoulos, who held the official title of Minister of the Interior. British pressure had forced Makarios to distance Georgadjis, a former active EOKA member from the Ministry of Interior which was in charge of internal security, police and intelligence.

Minister of the Interior

Following the first elections in 1960, Archbishop Makarios III, officially swapped the ministries between the two men. Typically for the ex-EOKA ministers in Makarios' first Council of Ministers, Georkadjis was very young at the time, aged 29. He also had no higher education.

As Minister of the Interior, Georkadtzis quickly became notorious for using the police as his personal army. It is rumoured that he also set up a vast information network. He was also the leader of the underground Greek Cypriot pro-Enosis movement, initially known simply as the Organisation, which later clashed with the Turkish Cypriot TMT in the intercommunal strife which began in December 1963. Georkadjis' code name in the Organisation was "Akritas", another name for the legendary Byzantine hero Digenis, an obvious link to the pseudonym of EOKA leader Georgios Grivas. Georkadjis is alleged to have authored the so-called Akritas plan (plan of action in case of clashes between the Greek and Turkish communities in Cyprus). The document became famous after it was leaked to the press, and acquired its popular name from the codename signed under it. With Glafkos Clerides he established the first centre right party of Cyprus, attracting many of the EOKA members in its ranks.

Links to failed Greek PM assassination

In 1968, Georkadtzis offered assistance to Alekos Panagoulis, a Greek political activist (and later politician), who opposed the rise of the military junta in Greece, in his attempted assassination of dictator George Papadopoulos on 13 August 1968. Panagoulis was arrested shortly after the failure of the attempt. Why Georkadjis, a confirmed anti-communist, would conspire with the communist Panagoulis to overthrow the dictatorship in Greece, remains unknown to this day. It is not likely Georkadtzis was acting out of ideology. It is much more probable that he attempted to use Panagoulis as part of some greater plan, since there were growing signs of disagreement between the government of Cyprus under President and Archbishop Makarios and the military junta in Greece. What is known is that Georkadtzis simultaneously attempted to ship explosives and weapons to Greece using diplomatic bag prerogatives.

Despite the torture he was subjected to, Panagoulis revealed nothing. However, the Georgadjis connection became known to the junta and Archbishop Makarios, President of the Republic of Cyprus, was forced by the junta to ask for Georkadjis' resignation. The dictator Georgios Papadopoulos, the target of the attempt, had been godfather at the baptism of Georkadjis' first child, Constantinos, just a year earlier, which particularly incensed Papadopoulos.

Attempt to overthrow Makarios

In 1970, juntist Greek officers of the National Guard in Cyprus planned a coup against Makarios (Operation Hermes). They approached Georkadtzis, who was still sidelined after his resignation, but continued to command a deep network inside the state, and the police force in particular. They asked him to plan and execute the assassination of Makarios which was intended to spark off unrest, so that the National Guard could then intervene and "restore order". Georkadjis agreed to co-operate.

Georkadjis' men shot at Makarios' helicopter just after it took off from the Archbishopric in Nicosia to convey the Archbishop to a memorial service for EOKA hero Grigoris Afxentiou in the mountains of Macheras. The machine was damaged and the pilot wounded, but a successful forced landing was made nearby and Makarios escaped, taking the pilot to Nicosia General Hospital with the aid of passers-by. The plan failed and the role of Greek officers Poulitsas and Papapostolou, who were part of Makarios' entourage, was revealed. Georkadjis attempted to appease Makarios by leaking the plan for Operation Hermes to Speaker of the House of Representatives Glafkos Klerides, who forwarded it to Makarios. Makarios did not need to see the plan to know that the Greek officers in the National Guard and the junta of Athens were behind the attempt. He also did not want to escalate the crisis in his relations with the junta. Via selective leaks to the press from the Presidential Palace, the plan for Operation Hermes was exposed publicly, but denounced as a fake designed to shatter the confidence of the people in the National Guard. Makarios publicly stated his confidence in the National Guard to defuse the crisis, temporarily at least.

Assassination

A week later, Georkadjis drove to a secret night rendezvous in an open area outside the village of Mia Milia. He asked a close associate to accompany him, but dropped him off some distance from the meeting point and drove on alone. As Georkadjis' car approached another car parked at the meeting point, the occupants of the other car opened fire with automatic weapons. One of them then walked up to Georkadjis' car and delivered a coup de grâce. They then drove off leaving Georkadjis dead at the scene. Fanis Demetriou, the police officer in charge of the investigation quickly found evidence pointing towards the same two Greek officers in Makarios' entourage who had been found to be involved in the Hermes plot. After he reported this to his superiors, Demetriou was ordered off the case. The two particular Greek officers were eventually only questioned several weeks later, at which time they gave identical accounts of their whereabouts on the night of the murder. They both left the island shortly thereafter and never returned.

In the trial of the men in the teams that shot at the President's helicopter, the court noted the leading part Georkadjis played as chief instigator and planner of the attempt, but did not call him to account as he was already deceased.

Georkadjis' widow Fotini married Tassos Papadopoulos, then Minister of Labour, within months of her husband's death. Papadopoulos and Georkadjis had been close friends, and Papadopoulos had been best man at Georkadjis' wedding.

Though Georkadtzis planned and executed an operation to assassinate the President of the Republic, and though his role in this has been acknowledged by the courts, the yearly church service in his memory is attended by prominent figures among the Greek Cypriot political leadership and at least one street has been named after him. A museum honoring the most distinguished aspects of his life is active in his birthplace in Palaichori, formally opened in 2002 by the then President Glafkos Clerides.

Quotes

"Anything can happen now. To Makarios, people are like lemons: when they are squeezed dry, he throws them away." Quoted soon after the failed assassination attempt on Makarios on 8 March 1970. Georgadjis was removed from a plane whilst trying to flee to Beirut.[5]


References

^ "Rulers. org – Cypriot Ministries, etc.". Retrieved 30 July 2008.
^ Papanastasiou, Nicos (5 August 2005). "Η «Μάχη του Νοσοκομείου» (31 August 1956) (The hospital battle)" (in Greek). Simerini. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
^ Watson, Roland (3 May 1958). "News in Brief – Three more Nicosia prison escapes". The Times Digital Archive (London): pp. 6; Issue 54141; col B. Retrieved 26 July 2008.
^ Papanastasiou, Nicos (26 October 2003). "Βασανιστήρια ιερωμένων, γυναικών και ατόμων κάθε ηλικίας (Torture of clergy, women and people of all ages)" (in Greek). Simerini. Retrieved 5 August 2008.
^ "Under the Threat of Guns". Time Magazine. 30 March 1970. Retrieved 26 July 2008.

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