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Gypsies 'offered accommodation' in jail
in The Cyprus Review, April 20, 2001

by Magda Zenon

"To date all Turkish Cypriots, Turkish settlers and gypsies who have attempted to cross into the Republic have been sent back to where they came from," was the response of Dinos Michaelides, the former Interior Minister and the Chairman of ADIK adding, "they are all considered to be spies."

This statement came hot on the heels of the statement by President Clerides that "everyone is equal in the eyes of the law." Many government departments were activated following the information that gypsies from the occupied areas had been "housed" in Nicosia's central prisons.

The "housing" of the gypsies came to the attention of Attorney General Alecos Markides earlier this week and he immediately proposed an urgent bull making it a criminal offence for anyone to prevent their free movement. The proposed sentence is a 1-year jail term.

Ministers have reassured the authorities that the gypsies are not being detained but are being "offered accommodation" at the central prisons.

The House Human Rights Committee sent an urgent letter to Justice Minister Nicos Koshis requesting information on how many gypsies are in the jail. The Committee also held an urgent meeting yesterday to discuss the Attorney General's bill.

Despite reassurances from Koshis that no-one is being held without a court order, members of the Human Rights Committee wanted to check the conditions in which the gypsies are living and pushed for the specific bill be discussed during the proceedings of yesterday's last day of the House of Representatives.

Christodoulos Christodoulou, the present Interior Minister, added to the confusion by stating that according to his information, 1,300 gypsies are expected to cross over from the occupied north of the island.

George Christofides, a member of the Committee, added that the logic that prison is the same as a 5 or 3 star hotel is baseless. Christodoulou replied that the gypsies are not being held illegally and can leave whenever they want, but without any help from the state.

A group of 23 gypsies gathered at the Ledra Palace checkpoint yesterday requesting permission to return to the occupied areas.


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