Nikos Sampson

Nikos Sampson (1935 – May 9, 2001) was the coup d'état-installed dictator of Cyprus, after the overthrow of President Makarios in 1974. Sampson was a member of EOKA-B, which sought enosis (union) of Cyprus with Greece.


Sampson was born Nikos Georgiadis in either the Cypriot port city of Famagusta or the capital Nicosia. He began his working life as a correspondent for The Cyprus Times. He adopted the Sampson as a nom de guerre during the resistance campaign against British rule in Cyprus, waged from 1955 to 1959.

Joining EOKA, he became known to the British Army and police as one of its most feared resistance fighters. He and his supporters instigated a number of killings carried out along Ledra Street. These included three police sergeants, for one of which Sampson was tried in May, 1957. He confessed, but was acquitted because of suspicions that his confession had been coerced. But a month after this acquittal, he was convicted of weapons possession, which carried a death sentence under the emergencey regulations of the time.

Sampson was working as a photographer-reporter at the time and he used to photograph the bodies of the people he killed 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.

The death sentence was subsequently commuted to life imprisonment and Sampson was flown to Britain to serve it. He was released a year and a half later under a general amnesty as part of the 1959 London agreement but remained in exile in Greece until Cyprus gained formal independence in August 1960, with Archbishop Makarios as its first President. He returned to Nicosia shortly after Independence Day, receiving a hero's welcome.

Sampson returned to newspaper publishing, admitting in 1961 in a series of newspaper articles that he was rssponsible for the death of police officers in 1956 during the resistance campaign against British rule.

A staunch believer in enosis with Greece, Sampson threw his weight behind a campaign to achieve it. He actively incited clashes between the Greek and Turkish communities in December 1963 which eventually led to a UN peacekeeping force being dispatched to Cyprus. The effect of these clashes was withdrawal of the Turks from government and the move of Turkish Cypriot community into enclaves. Sampson was particularly active in the suburb of Nicosia known as Omorfita/Kucuk Kaymakli, with a majority turkish cypriot population. Apart from conventional weapons his group used excavator trucks to demolish houses.

In 1970 Sampson became a member of the Cyprus Parliament. In 1971, EOKA head General Grivas returned to Cyprus and gave the campaign for enosis further momentum, forming EOKA-B. The Greek military junta of 1967-1974 gave active support to EOKA-B.

President Makarios had outlawed EOKA-B but by this time, the police,National Guard and the Civil Service were heavily infiltrated by EOKA-B, and only the death of General Grivas in 1974 enabled President Makarios to attempt to purge EOKA-B from government. But before he could do so, he was deposed by a military coup on July 15, 1974, which was led by Greek officers of the Cyprus National Guard.

After the coup, the Greek military junta installed Sampson as Cyprus' second president, but Sampson was forced to resign eight days later, after the Turkish military - ostensibly acting to protect the Turkish Cypriots from the spectre of Enosis - intervened by invading Cyprus, taking control of the northern third of the island in Operation Atilla.

Sampson was sentenced to 20 years in prison for treason in 1976. He was subsequently allowed to go to France for medical treatment, before returning to Cyprus in June 1990. Following his release from prison only a few months later, he went back to the newspaper publishing business. He died in Nicosia on May 10, 2001.


Sampson's coup led not only to heavy loss of life in Cyprus, but also to the displacement of tens of thousands of Greek Cypriot civilians who were forced to flee their homes in the wake of the Turkish military invasion. Greek Cypriots condemned him for his far right-wing policies and the damage he did to inter-communal relations, as well as for (in their view) bringing catastrophe upon Cyprus in the form of the Turkish invasion and subsequent occupation of a third of the island.

Right up to his death in 2001, Sampson denied that he had been involved in the planning of the 1974 coup, saying that he had accepted the role of president (offered him by the Greek junta) in an effort to bring an end to the inter-communal conflict. His supporters say that he was unfairly singled out for punishment while many others who took part in the coup were allowed to remain free and stay politically active.

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