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Remains of Greeks missing since 1964 to be exhumed

Presidential Commissioner for Overseas Cypriots Fotis Fotiou

As part of the search for people missing since the intercommunal strife in the 1960s and the Turkish invasion in 1974, experts will this week exhume the remains of 11 Greek nationals buried at the Constantinou and Elenis cemetery.

Six of them were part of the crew of Greek patrol boat Faethon, killed when it was bombed by Turkish air force jets off Xeros in Morphou Bay in August 1964.

“We are ready … to proceed with this exhumation,” Commissioner for Humanitarian Affairs Fotis Fotiou said. “You do understand this is very important for us because it is the obligation of this state to provide the relatives with the correct answers after so many years.”

Fotiou said repeated mistakes had been made regarding the particular burial.

In the past, the authorities had returned the wrong remains to the families because the samples were too small and genetic material had been corrupted. That mainly concerns remains exhumed around 10 years ago.

“The wrong remains had been given to relatives many years ago … the relatives’ trauma has lasted for 53 years because this case concerns matters relating to 1964, not 1974,” Fotiou said.

Six Greeks and one Cypriot were killed during the August 8, 1964 bombing.

Five other Greek nationals had also been buried in the same section of the cemetery.

Fotiou said the exhumation was a government programme and not the committee on missing persons, which searches solely for Greek and Turkish Cypriot missing.

Following that exhumation, the authorities will undertake another difficult task of finding and identifying the remains of 31 individuals killed when the Turkish air force bombed the psychiatric facility in Nicosia in 1974.

Their bodies had been buried in the hospital’s grounds in Athalassa.

“This is another tragic aspect with 31 patients of the hospital who are buried there and we must start this exhumation as soon as possible,” Fotiou said.

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