COVID19: Lockdown challenger loses in court

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Nicosia District Court on Tuesday rejected the defence arguments of a man accused of violating lockdown to attend church last year, challenging the legality of COVID-19 measures.

The man, eventually fined €1,000, based his case on arguments that the Health Ministry’s lockdown decrees were unconstitutional and invalid.

He had initially refused to pay a fine handed to him.

The case was taken to trial, where his defence argued that government decrees were unconstitutional as they had not been approved by parliament.

According to a statement issued by the Attorney General’s office, the defendant’s lawyer also argued that quarantine measures were disproportionate to the restriction placed on the freedom of religion.

The state’s legal services called as a witness the head of the epidemiological team Dr Constantinos Tsioutis, who, as assessed by the court, gave a comprehensive and thorough analysis of the need to take the specific measures due to the grave coronavirus landscape.

Measures introduced restricted free movement and gatherings, including mass at church, with Tsioutis explaining the temporary nature of these measures and the need to protect public health.

A Health Ministry official also testified on behalf of the ministry.

In a lengthy decision, the court rejected the defendant’s arguments, focusing on the legitimacy of restrictions based on constitutional provisions related to the protection of public health.

The court rejected the argument that his religious rights had been curtailed, noting the measure’s temporariness and that core rights had not been harmed since the faithful were afforded alternative solutions.

The man was fined €1,000 and ordered to pay court expenses.

According to reports, the man had attended a mass at a church in the parish of Morphou Bishop Neophytos, a fierce opponent to vaccines, endeared by the island’s anti-vax and COVID deniers movement.

Bishop Neophytos said earlier in August he had fallen sick with coronavirus and will be limiting his duties until the end of the year to pray.