The Republic of Cyprus has identified seven bodies that were buried in 1974 and recently unearthed during excavations of human remains at Nicosia’s Athalassa hospital.
The bodies belonged to six Greek Cypriots and one Turkish Cypriot, according to Presidential Commissioner Fotis Fotiou, who said the identification was being conducted through a partnership between the State and the Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics (CING).
“Following the disinterment, which was carried out through a programme established by the Republic of Cyprus, in the area of the Athalassa Hospital, there have been initial results from CING, identifying human bones belonging to seven patients,” Fotiou said.
The commissioner said one identified victim was one of three Turkish Cypriots who were killed during the bombing of the mental hospital, which was targeted by Turkish warplanes on 20 July 1974.
Fotiou also said there were “five other cases” of victims in Athalassa and further investigation was necessary to reach conclusive results.
Mustafa Akinci's criticism
But Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci, who criticised the Republic of Cyprus for carrying out the exhumation unilaterally, said last year that this was a “special situation” and called for conditions of cooperation between the two sides.
In a letter he sent to UN Deputy Special Adviser Elizabeth Spehar back in December, Akinci spoke of five Turkish Cypriots who were believed to have been buried at the site.
Fotiou, who rejected Akinci’s criticism of unilateral action, said the exhumation at Athalassa was being conducted by the Republic through a programme aimed at identifying victims, for whom the Turkish side refuses to cooperate through the bicommunal Committee of Missing Persons (CMP).
In 2017, eleven Cypriots were exhumed at the site while authorities were searching for the remains of 31 people. More skeletal fragments were found in nearby graves and officials, according to Fotiou, had information that two victims were later buried in a Nicosia cemetery.
Two victims were described as patients at the mental hospital, a male nurse and a soldier, whose remains were handed over to their families for burial.
Knews understands that Fotiou made reference to those two victims in previous statements when he pointed to archival research. These were seven individuals buried at a cemetery in Aglandjia who were also cross listed with people missing in Athalassa.
“For the other five, unfortunately, there is no personal information,” Fotiou told CNA.
The Athalassa mental hospital, which was adjacent to an army camp, was bombed by Turkish warplanes on 20 July 1974, when Turkey invaded militarily in response to a short-lived coup engineered by Athens.