Friday, August 14, 2009

Greek Cypriot bodies identified

By Malcolm Brabant
BBC News, Athens
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The remains of five Greek Cypriot prisoners of war have been identified, 35 years after they were killed and thrown down a well. The five prisoners were photographed surrendering to Turkish forces during the invasion of Cyprus in 1974. The remains were recovered from a well in the island's Turkish-occupied north in 2006 along with 14 other human bodies. Greece and Cyprus have called on Turkey to clear up all the cases of people who went missing during the invasion. After DNA testing on the remains, the identities of the five Greek Cypriot national guardsmen were made public by the UN-sponsored Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus.
High emotions

The case is being seen as the committee's most significant piece of detective work, because the five prisoners of war were symbols for all families waiting for news of 1,500 people who simply vanished during the invasion and Cyprus's inter-communal strife. The Greek Cypriots re-released poignant photographs taken in 1974 as the five ran out of ammunition and surrendered - on their knees with their hands behind their heads - to advancing Turkish troops. One guardsman, Iannis Papayianni, was photographed accepting a cigarette from a Turkish soldier. His funeral will take place in Nicosia on Friday. The brother of another dead prisoner of war told Cypriot television the photographs were proof the men had been murdered by the Turks. "It was a cold-blooded execution," he said. The Greek and Cypriot governments have called on Turkey to open military archives to shed more light on the whereabouts of the missing. Since exhumations began three years ago, the remains of 163 people have been returned to their families. Officials with the Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus hope the furore over the five prisoners of war does not damage peace talks aimed at reunifying the divided island. The atmosphere has not been helped by the almost simultaneous announcement that the remains of two disabled Greek-Cypriot children had also been identified.