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Page last updated at 19:17 GMT, Sunday, 21 March 2010

Cyprus bishops' tombs vandalised

Police officers at the scene of the graves of two Cyprus Archbishops at a cemetery in capital Nicosia
The desecration was discovered after a fire at a church

Cyprus police have arrested a Romanian man suspected of vandalising the tombs of three archbishops in a cemetery in the capital city of Nicosia.

The 34-year old man confessed to removing the marble slabs covering the graves of the churchmen, police said.

The remains of two of the bishops first appeared to have been stolen, but the bones of one of them were in fact buried elsewhere years ago, police say.

The suspect denies removing any human remains from the tombs.

He was arrested after throwing a bag of human excrement at police officers at a Nicosia police station Sunday.

The graves of the men, who led the island's Greek Orthodox church in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, were discovered to have been tampered with after police officers responded to a pre-dawn fire at a Nicosia church.

Cyprus map

An investigation showed that the remains of Kyrillos II were reburied decades ago in his birth village of Prodromos, 80 km south of Nicosia, police say.

Investigators are trying to determine whether the remains of Sofronios III were stolen or reburied by the church elsewhere, police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos was quoted as saying by AP news agency.

The remains of Kyrillos III were left undisturbed.

The suspect had "issues with the church and holy ground", Nicosia police chief Kypros Michaelides was quoted by Reuters as saying.

The 34-year-old Romanian faces charges of religious sacrilege, trespassing and causing malicious damage at grave sites.

The desecration comes less than two weeks after three men were held over the theft of the corpse of a former Cyprus President, Tassos Papadopoulos.

His corpse was stolen three months ago, but recovered after a tip-off.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
The Independent Man held after archbishops' tombs vandalised - 34 hrs ago
The Scotsman Cypriot police quiz suspected grave vandal - 35 hrs ago
MSNBC Suspect nabbed in Cyprus Archbishops' tomb attack - 37 hrs ago
Telegraph Cyprus Archbishops' graves vandalised - 39 hrs ago
CTV.ca Tombs of Cypriot Archbishops vandalized, not robbed - 45 hrs ago


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