NICOSIA Cyprus authorities say they will drop charges against dozens of elderly women for gambling after reports of their prosecution triggered disbelief among the public.
Some 42 women aged between 60 and 98 had received a summons to appear in court this month after police nabbed them playing a local version of gin rummy at a private residence in 2009.
Gambling for even the smallest amounts - in the women's case, police netted a total figure of about 100 euros ($130) - is banned on the east Mediterranean island.
By contrast, online gambling, an industry which has an estimated turnover exceeding 1 billion euros per year, is unregulated although lawmakers plan to introduce legislation on the matter next month.
"I asked for the file on the case and I immediately gave instructions for prosecution to be suspended," Attorney-General Petros Clerides told state television.
The women, dubbed "Supergrans" by one newspaper, say their hobby helps keep their minds alert and allows them to socialise.
"What would they have expected us to do when we are 96," said Eftychia Yiasemidou. Now 98, the former schoolteacher says she still indulges in her favourite hobby. "I only stopped about 20 days ago, temporarily, because of the cold weather," she told the Politis daily. ($1 = 0.7501 euros)
(Reporting By Michele Kambas)