Panelist Say Cyprus Church Artifacts in Danger

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Christian artifacts and paintings in ancient churches and monasteries on the island of Cyprus are in great peril.

Panelists testifying before the United States Helsinki Commission said Frescoes and Greek Orthodox icons have been looted.

Many of the priceless items have been smuggled out of the country and have ended up on the international black market.

The Turkish army invaded and occupied the northern part of the island 35 years ago this week.  Cyprus is still divided by Greek and Turkish sectors today.

Author and journalist Michael Jansen says the Turkish government is responsible and the looting and destruction is worse than in Europe after World War II.

"Turkey also collaborated in the destruction of the north's dominant Christian culture by allowing churches to collapse from neglect or to be looted and to be used as cinemas, restaurants, storehouses and goat pens," Jansen explained. 

In response, a Turkish government spokesman told The Washington Times that Turkey respects all cultural heritages.

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