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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cyprus holds two for theft of ex-leader's corpse

Cyprus' President Tassos Papadopoulos addresses a news conference  at the end of a European Union Heads of State and Government summit in  Brussels December 14, 2007 file photo. REUTERS/Ezequiel Scagnetti
(Reuters) - A court in Cyprus remanded two men in custody Wednesday on suspicion of snatching the corpse of former Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos, holding it for ransom for three months until its discovery Monday.

The men, a 31-year-old migrant from India and a 48-year-old Greek Cypriot, are suspected of being behind the bizarre crime, for which one of them received just 200 euros ($270) for his assistance to the other suspect.

Police said they raided Papadopoulos's tomb in December, armed with a pick and a shovel, and buried him elsewhere.

A third man, thought to have masterminded the theft, is already serving a prison sentence for other offences and did not appear in court. He is the brother of the Greek Cypriot suspect.

Police were led to the macabre discovery after the Indian suspect, who authorities say has confessed involvement, made contact with Papadopoulos's family this week.

"The suspect said he felt remorse, so decided to ask for money to reveal where the body was hidden and leave Cyprus," said Yiannakis Charalambous, a superintendent with Cyprus police.

The Indian was paid 200 euros with the promise of more which was not forthcoming, Charalambous told the court.

Papadopoulos was president of Cyprus from 2003 to early 2008. He died of lung cancer later that year. When his grave was robbed, police spoke of a carefully planned operation, sought help from Interpol and Western intelligence agencies.

Neither man has been charged. Under Cyprus law suspects can be held in custody on court orders to assist inquiries.

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