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'Gambling grannies' win Cyprus reprieve

03 march 2012, 15:25
©REUTERS/Bobby Yip
©REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Cyprus is to suspend legal proceedings against 42 elderly women who were summoned to appear in court later this month accused of illegal gambling, AFP reports citing state radio.

The move follows public dismay over media reports that the women aged between 62 and 98 were being prosecuted under the island's gambling laws which carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

Gambling with cards is banned although many Greek Cypriots play casually for money, especially during New Year holidays.

State radio reported that attorney general Petros Clerides asked to review the police file to study the case and decided to suspend legal proceeding against the women.

The card-playing women, mostly in their 70s, were rounded up in a police raid of a private home in the southern coastal town of Limassol in November 2009.

Originally, 44 women were caught playing gin rummy for money -- police collected €100 (133 dollars) in cash -- but two have since died.

"I still play cards. It gives me life and my friends feel the same," the oldest woman, 98-year-old former teacher Eftychia Yiasemidou, told Phileleftheros newspaper.

"We play for fun. We don't harm families or deprive children of money like the big gamblers do."

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