Greek bishop to be retried under homophobia law


Athens (AFP)

A Greek bishop will be retried after being controversially acquitted on charges of inciting violence against homosexuals, a judicial source said Tuesday.

Bishop Amvrosios, whose name is Athanassios Lenis, labelled gay people the "dregs of society" and called on his followers to "spit on" and "blacken" them in a written address in 2015.

He was charged with public incitement to violence and abuse of ecclesiastical duties before being found not guilty and released by a court in the Peloponnesian town of Aigio earlier this month.

However, two appeals have since been filed against the decision, the judicial source said.

The outburst by the 79-year-old bishop of Kalavryta came as Greece's parliament debated extending full civil partnership rights to gay couples.

The bishop has been known to publicly appear alongside leaders of Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn and his release brought criticism from human rights groups, as well as from the political left.

Greek Justice Minister Stavros Kontonis of the ruling leftist Syriza party said he was "surprised" by the decision and asked to examine the court's arguments.

But the bishop's appearance in court on such charges -- a first in Greece for a representative of the influential Orthodox church -- was hailed by some as win in itself.

Lio Kalovirnas, one of the nine activists who issued the initial complaint against the bishop, said the "mere fact that he has been in court is the first victory".