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Body of former Cyprus president stolen

Grave-robbers stole the corpse of the former president of Cyprus from his tomb yesterday, the day before the first anniversary of his death.

The desecration of Tassos Papadopoulos's remains was discovered in the morning. The perpetrators were thought to have worked overnight in torrential rain.

A former bodyguard who visited the tomb found piles of earth by the graveside and an empty casket. "This is a sacrilege," said the current President, Demetris Christofias. "It is an immoral and condemnable act which is a blight to our culture and respect for our dead."

The vandals left behind a Greek Orthodox icon which was placed in the casket by relatives at the burial of Mr Papadopoulos was buried, who led Cyprus from 2003 to 2008. During his term, he championed the rejection by Greek Cypriots of a UN reunification blueprint for the island, which was split in 1974 when the Turks invaded following a brief coup inspired by Greece.

Mr Papadopoulos was admired by many Greek Cypriots for standing up to the international community and rejecting the plan, but others believed he sowed division.