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  Youth Sues Cleric on Sexual Abuse Claim

By Elias Hazou
Cyprus Mail
August 24, 2006

http://www.cyprus-mail.com/news/main.php?id=27523&cat_id=1

The Youth claiming to have engaged in lewd acts with a Limassol cleric is now suing for sexual abuse, in the latest public scandal to rock the Church.

Nicos Polycarpou, 20, alleges that he and Archimandrite Isaac Macheriotis, of the Limassol bishopric, maintained relations of a homosexual nature. The affair is said to have begun three years ago, when Polycarpou was 17 and therefore still underage.

The lawsuit, filed in a Limassol court, demands compensation of up to £250,000 for alleged sexual exploitation of a minor.

Notice of the suit was served yesterday to the accused clergyman, who has 10 days to appoint legal counsel to represent him.

The case came to the fore in July, when Politis published photos of archimandrite Macheriotis showing him engaging in untowardly acts with the youngster. The paper insisted the material was authentic, although subsequent digital analysis by British experts commissioned by the Limassol bishopric deemed the photos were doctored.

To Limassol bishop Athanasios, who is responsible for Macheriotis, the affair and and more importantly its timing smacks of a conspiracy to tarnish his image ahead of the Archbishopric elections this September.

Moreover, he believes that circles inside the Church are at the bottom of the affair.

According to Athanasios, the nefarious scheme involves people of the underworld, who have paid homosexuals to lie about the archimandrite. He says that in early July he was approached by "gangsters", who tried to blackmail him by asking money for the photos and the negatives.

The bishop refused to play along, reporting the case to the police. In the meantime, to cover all the bases, Athanasios launched an internal inquiry at the bishopric to find whether there was any truth to the allegations.

But the inquiry has stalled because the youth making the allegations has not showed up to testify to the two investigating clerics.

Even so, Athanasios is adamant that his archimandrite is innocent of the scurrilous charges.

For his part, Macheriotis filed a libel suit against the paper and secured an interim court order prohibiting the daily from publishing anything about the personal life of the cleric in question.

Even if the allegations are proved to be false, the scandal is sure to take its toll on the Limassol bishopric, one of the richest and most influential dioceses in Cyprus.

The youth's lawyer, Neoklis Neokleous, yesterday presented an entirely different version of the story.

He told the Mail his client had had a limited sexual relationship with archimandrite Macheriotis for three years, but that recently the youth had decided to break it off.

But when the cleric allegedly insisted on keeping the relationship, Polycarpou resorted to taking pictures as a way of convincing Macheriotis to leave him be, the lawyer claimed.

"He never intended to publish them, only to use them as a threat," Neokleous said.

Until that point, Neokleous said, the matter was kept quiet. But when Politis "somehow" got hold of the controversial photos and published them, the police were forced to investigate.

Neokleous denies suggestions that his client later used connections to try and shake down the archimandrite.

"That's a different story," he says.

"We have nothing to do with that. I'm not even sure that the bishop of Limassol was extorted. I just don't know."

 
 

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