Trial-fixing scandal balloons

Top Church of Greece officials yesterday added two bishops to some 20 members of the judiciary who are under investigation or face disciplinary action in connection with a broad-ranging trial-fixing scandal that allegedly intertwines corrupt judges and churchmen. The Church’s ruling body, the Holy Synod, summoned Panteleimon, Bishop of Attica, to appear today before the 13-member body – chaired by Archbishop Christodoulos – to answer charges of having «scandalized the Church.» This refers to taped conversations made public recently in which the bishop appears to be interceding with judges and lawyers to affect the outcome of pending cases. Panteleimon has admitted to making such calls but claims that he was just trying to clarify his views on the cases in question. However, the bishop of Attica has denied the authenticity of a separate series of recorded phone calls in which he allegedly made lewd suggestions to a male interlocutor. If Panteleimon fails to sway the Holy Synod today, he faces an immediate six-month suspension and further investigation that could lead to his dismissal. However, sources yesterday indicated that he might prefer to resign. The second senior churchman in hot water is Theoklitos, Bishop of Thessaliotis, who was summoned to defend himself in writing, by Tuesday, against allegations by his predecessor that he was detained by police in a dodgy club on suspicion of drug offenses, and that the matter was subsequently hushed up. The Holy Synod also instructed Panteleimon to suspend a priest under his jurisdiction who is allegedly at the heart of the trial-fixing scandal, and to launch disciplinary proceedings against him. Archimandrite Iakovos Yiossakis is also in trouble with the law over a case of suspected antiquities theft. He is due to appear before an examining magistrate today – though his whereabouts were unknown yesterday with police looking to arrest him on the basis of a warrant issued Wednesday in fear he might try to flee the country. The Synod asked the government to revise the law on the prosecution of clergymen, and called on lay members with incriminating information regarding churchmen to notify Church authorities. «The Church, as an institution, faces no threat from the errors of its clergymen,» a Synod statement added. Meanwhile, a fifth judge is expected to face disciplinary charges for trial-fixing today. A total of about 20 are under investigation.

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