COVID19: Bishop barred from court for not wearing mask

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Anti-COVID Morphou Bishop Neophytos has taken his case to the Supreme Court after a lower court ruled, he could not defend himself if he refused to wear a face mask.

The Bishop is protesting a Nicosia District court decision not allowing him to defend himself because he refused to wear a face mask during the hearing for violating the law on contagious diseases.

The clergyman found himself in trouble with the law when on 6 January, he urged followers to defy COVID-19 health rules and attend the Epiphany celebration marking the baptism of Christ.

Despite a ban on people attending services, Bishop Neophytos often declared he would not lock churchgoers out of churches during lockdowns.

He blessed the waters of a creek in the village of Evrychou, with hundreds in attendance.

Many were not wearing face masks or keep to social distancing, obliging, reportedly reluctant, police officers to fine eight people €300 each for breaking the coronavirus health laws.

The district court has told the Bishop to sign a bail of €5,000, guaranteeing he will appear for the trial, which begins on 24 September.

Guarantees are usually required from those who are facing more serious criminal charges.

The Bishop’s defence team claims that Neophytos had simply performed his religious duties based on his rights as a clergyman, which are guaranteed and protected by the Constitution.

His lawyer Nicos Clerides argued the Bishop was not allowed to appear in the courtroom because he refused to wear a mask, describing the incident as a “sad event”.

Legal sources expect the Bishop to use his trial to challenge the legality of COVID-19 restrictions and decrees introduced to stem the spread of the virus.

Bishop Neophytos is no stranger to controversy after narrowly escaping prosecution over gay hate speech in 2019.

He claimed during a public event that homosexuality is passed on if a pregnant woman enjoys anal sex.

More recently, the Bishop is believed to have ties with the anti-vaccination movement in Cyprus.

He has openly doubted the existence of the virus as a plot for global domination, quoting comic books.

The Bishop quoted Asterix comic books as proof that certain people knew of the “COVID plot”.