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State Department report on religious freedoms in Cyprus
2002-10-08 15:03:05

By Demetris Apokis -- Washington, Oct 8 (CNA) - The Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus provides for freedom of religion and the government generally respects this right in practice, says a US State Department report on International Religious Freedom, released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour.

Regarding the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus, although the report says the free practice of religion is ''generally'' respected, it points out references by Greek Cypriot enclaved that ''unused Orthodox churches continued to be vandalised'' and outlines the prohibition of visits to places of worship in the areas of the Republic under Turkish occupation since 1974.|

The report also mentions reports by Turkish Cypriots that unused mosques in the free areas ''have been vandalised'' but notes that the government of Cyprus ''routinely carried out maintenance and repair of mosques'' in the free areas.

Furthermore, the State Department report makes reference to the May 2001 European Court of Human Rights decision that the government of Turkey was responsible for restrictions imposed on Greek Cypriots resident in the occupied areas in regard to their access to places of worship and participation in other areas of religious life.

Finally, it stresses that Maronites may not visit certain religious sites in the Turkish occupied areas located in military zones, while Armenians may not visit any religious sites in the north.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied its northern third.

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