NEWS

Vatopedi monk in jail as minister warns ‘meddlers’

The monk at the center of the Vatopedi Monastery land swap affair has been remanded in custody as Justice Minister Miltiadis Papaioannou accused those opposing his detention of trying to meddle in Greek justice.

Ephraim, an abbot at the monastery, is accused of money laundering and embezzlement in the exchange of property between Vatopedi and the state that allegedly left the monks better off and Greek taxpayers footing a bill for millions of euros.

He is being held at Korydallos Prison but his lawyers are likely to appeal his detention and ask for him to be released on bail.

Dozens of supporters gathered outside the Appeals Court in Athens on Tuesday night to protest the move to detain Ephraim, who has also received from some bishops. Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS), the nationalist party that is the junior of the three partners in the coalition government, has called for Deputy Justice Minister Giorgos Petalotis to resign over Ephraim?s treatment, claiming that he instigated the monk?s arrest.

This prompted Papaioannou to say that he would not accept any intervention in the Greek justice system.

?I have never understood why they asked for Petalotis to resign,? he told Skai TV. ?They are interfering in the work of the justice system. At some point, we have to stop with the bad practices of the past.?

Also speaking to Skai TV, Bishop Anthimos of Thessaloniki wondered why Ephraim was the only person among the 32 involved in the Vatopedi land swap to be remanded in custody.

?People are wondering whether Ephraim is being made a scapegoat,? said the bishop, who insisted that the Church of Greece?s Holy Synod would not take a position on the matter.

?There is the problem of meddling in judicial matters,? he said. ?The church is totally separate from the state.?