Smugglers’ ship sinks while being towed The Turkish migrant smuggling ship Aydin Captan yesterday sank off the southeast coast of Crete after stormy weather hindered efforts to tow the gradually flooding vessel to the island’s eastern port of Siteia, the Merchant Marine Ministry said. The ship was abandoned just over 14 kilometers from the southeastern Bay of Kouremenos, where it was left to sink. It had been transporting 246 illegal immigrants from Turkey to Italy when hit by gale-force winds in the Libyan Sea southeast of Crete on New Year’s day, prompting a massive rescue operation. The immigrants, mostly Iraqi Kurds, were towed on Thursday to the southern port of Ierapetra, where the ship could not safely anchor. Hunting Ministry imposes countrywide ban because of harsh weather A countrywide hunting ban was imposed yesterday by the Agriculture Ministry and will apply until Wednesday, January 9. The lifting of the ban, which has been imposed to protect animals weakened by the harsh weather conditions, will be at the discretion of regional directors, the ministry said. Soldier dies Presidential Guard sergeant A 21-year-old sergeant of the Presidential Guard was found hanging by his tie in the toilets of his barracks yesterday morning by fellow soldiers, who attempted but failed to revive him. The man, from Markopoulo in Attica, who was not named, was pronounced dead on arrival at Evangelismos hospital. The sergeant, who had joined the Presidential Guard last June, reportedly had serious family problems. The apparent suicide has not been confirmed by a coroner. Cyprus appeal A Greek-Cypriot woman from a village in the occupied north of Cyprus has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights to bring the Turkish regime to account in connection with the disappearance of her husband and son, missing since the Turkish invasion of 1974, the Athens News Agency (ANA) said yesterday. Panagiota Pavlou Solomi said Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denkash never responded to a letter she sent him in 1975 asking what became of her husband and son after their disappearance from her home village of Komi Kepir the previous year, the ANA said. Solomi’s lawyer said the timing of his client’s appeal, lodged on December 27, was not linked to revived discussions on the issue of missing Cypriots. Afternoon hospitals The first private afternoon appointments at state hospitals have been well received by the public, Health Minister Alekos Papadopoulos said yesterday, dismissing recent criticism of the two-day-old system as the «arrogance» of doctors seeking to exploit the state healthcare system for their own ends. The minister made his comments after a meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis, during which he said that lawlessness in the state healthcare system must be stamped out. In a separate statement, Papadopoulos said most Athens hospitals are on duty and the National First Aid Center (EKAB) is on standby due to the adverse weather conditions. Attention – road sign The Attiki Odos was closed for several hours yesterday morning, in the direction of the airport, after a loose highway sign started swinging dangerously above passing traffic. The «Exit 18, Paiania – Spata» sign, which also indicates a bridge ahead, spans the entire highway and hence posed a danger to traffic in all lanes. The sign, which is almost directly opposite the Transport Control Center at Paiania, was reaffixed by Attica highway workers. The highway is now open. Gas death A 41-year-old woman was found dead in her home in the northern Athens suburb of Melissia on Thursday night after having apparently inhaled liquid gas fumes from a heater in her bedroom. Zambeta Hatzigeorgiou was found by her 16-year-old son who also discovered Panagiotis Dionysopoulos, 30, Hatzigeorgiou’s husband, in a comatose state. The young man called an ambulance which took Dionysopoulos to Sismanogleio Hospital, where he was in a critical condition yesterday. A coroner called by police confirmed Hatzigeorgiou’s death from the toxic fumes. Euro robbery Two armed robbers yesterday made off with 7,500 euros (2.5 million drachmas) after holding up the Mesogeion Avenue branch of the National Bank of Greece in Athens. The two men, who were wearing motorcycle helmets, left the bank separately, one by motorbike and one on foot.