NEWS

Bishop charged with murder plot

A senior Greek Orthodox churchman in the Holy Land was formally accused in Athens yesterday under the new counterterrorism law of offering a Palestinian half a million dollars to assassinate the head of the church. The charges followed a suit by Patriarch Irenaios. Timotheos, Bishop of Vostra – a titular see in Syria under the jurisdiction of the Jerusalem Patriarchate – proposes to respond in kind, tabling a defamation suit against his superior with a Tel Aviv prosecutor, his Greek lawyer said yesterday. «This constitutes yet another plot against Mr Timotheos,» Giorgos Alfantakis said. Alfantakis added that his client, who was one of Irenaios’s main rivals during the 2001 patriarchal election, would also take his case to the head of the Orthodox Church, Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos, seeking the convocation of Orthodox leaders to «investigate Mr Irenaios’s election and his behavior during the election period.» In Athens yesterday, prosecutor Dimitris Asproyerakas brought misdemeanor charges against Timotheos for «forming a gang and inciting a criminal act.» Earlier, a Greek lawyer representing the patriarch, Alexandros Kouyias, tabled a suit against Timotheos claiming the bishop had offered $500,000 to Beit Jala resident Yussuf Naim al Mufdi to arrange Irenaios’s death. Al Mufdi reportedly confessed to taking money from Timotheos following his arrest, on unrelated charges, by Palestinian authorities. Samos-born Irenaios, 64, is under fire from both Palestinians and Israelis – Tel Aviv has still to recognize his election – for allegedly displaying political bias. He succeeded Diodoros I, whose tenure was mired by claims of financial and political wrongdoing as well as a rumored sex scandal involving Romanian nuns.