NEWS

In Brief

TURKEY VISIT OFF

Greek diaspora request for Hagia Sophia service denied Chris Spyrou, the leader of a US-based group of some 250 Greek Orthodox Christians who had intended to hold mass at the former basilica of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul this weekend, told Turkish press yesterday that the trip had been called off. Speaking to the state-run Anatolia news agency, Spyrou said he had received a letter from a Turkish Foreign Ministry official saying that the ban on holding religious services in what is now a museum would be upheld according to law, and that the group might be barred from entering the country if it is seen as posing a security threat. According to sources, the Turkish ambassador in Athens, Mehmet Hasan Gogus, is said to have sent a letter to Spyrou calling the group’s application a provocation. AMERICANS RELEASED Skulls ‘were for Halloween’ Two American tourists, aged 25 and 28, who were arrested on Wednesday after being found with six human skulls in their luggage at Athens International Airport, were released from police custody yesterday. The pair, who were on holiday in Myconos, claimed to have purchased the skulls from a souvenir shop on the island for 25 euros apiece, believing them to be fake. They were planning to use them at Halloween on October 31 in their home state of California, they told police. The police are investigating the origin of the skulls. Hospital blaze Patients were evacuated and windows broken at Hania Hospital on Crete yesterday as firefighters contained a blaze in the psychiatric ward started by a patient who left a lit cigarette lying on a mattress. The ward was not equipped with a smoke alarm or sprinkler system, forcing firefighters to break several windows in order to put the fire out. Two of the hospital’s wards will be closed for repairs. Antique thief A retired employee of the Archaeological Service at Ancient Corinth was arrested yesterday on charges of being in possession of unregistered antiquities. Special investigators, acting on a tip-off, searched the 61-year-old man’s home and found 40 objects dating from the Late Byzantine period (4th century BC to 11th century AD), including ceramic vessels, idols and bronze items. Armed robberies Two post offices and a cafe were targeted by armed robbers in Attica yesterday, according to police reports. The first of the holdups took place early yesterday morning, when two armed men stormed a cafe in the southern suburb of Voula, fired shots into the air and made off with an unspecified amount of cash. Later, at 8 a.m., a gunman walked into a post office in Alimos, also south of Athens, grabbed some money and rode off on a motorcycle. Just a few minutes after that, another armed man robbed a post office in Peristeri and escaped on foot. None of the perpetrators have been identified. Mysterious stabbing Attica police are investigating the case of a young woman who was found stabbed in the middle of a road in Ilion, western Athens, early yesterday morning. She died of her injuries a few hours later after being transported by ambulance to hospital. The woman, who has not been identified, is believed to be a foreign national.