Born at the southwestern Cypriot port of Paphos, Denktash was the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community for about four decades and in 1983 he proclaimed independence of the northern part of the island that the Turkish army had occupied since 1974 following a Greek-inspired coup against Cypriot president Makarios.
A staunch supporter of the partition of the island, he died seeing what he named as the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” recognized by no other country than Turkey.
His extreme nationalism and devotion to the Kemalist principles saw him at odds with the Islamist government of Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, resulting in 2004 in his exclusion from the negotiations on Cyprus. He was a vocal opponent of the Annan Plan for Cyprus that the majority of Turkish Cypriots voted in favor of in April 2004.
An accomplished lawyer, Denktash became a prosecutor when Cyprus was still under British occupation, and was responsible for the execution and imprisonment of several Greek Cypriot independence fighters.
He was also fluent in Greek.