Cyprus cleric gets suspended sentence in historic sex crimes case

The sentence was greeted by jeers and chants of 'rapist'.

A Cypriot court handed a former bishop a suspended jail sentence Thursday for indecently assaulting a teenager in the first conviction of a senior cleric of the island’s powerful Orthodox Church.

The Larnaca District Court had found the priest guilty of assaulting the 16-year-old girl when he was the city’s bishop 42 years ago in the landmark historic sex crimes case.

To the anger of protesters gathered outside the courtroom, the court suspended the 12-month jail sentence it handed down against former bishop Chrysostomos of Kition.


The court said it had been bound by the laws in force at the time of the offence and had also taken into account the 84-year-old’s age and failing health,

But the sentence was greeted by jeers and chants of “rapist”.

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Announcing sentence, Judge Evi Efthymiou said the laws in force in 1981 set a maximum prison term of two years.

She said the bishop had arranged his appointments with the victim for Saturday afternoons so he could meet her alone.

“He chose his victim, a 16-year-old girl seeking financial assistance.

“Instead of helping her, he chose to attack her obscenely, in my opinion. The circumstances of the offence were humiliating.

“I cannot ignore that the complainant needed psychiatric help,” she added.

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The judge ruled that “the only appropriate penalty is imprisonment. Any other punishment would be an act of tolerance towards such offences”.

However, she also ruled that “the exercise of discretion in favour of suspension is justified”.

More accusations against the cleric

The victim did not press charges until 2021, 40 years after the offence. At least six more women subsequently came forward with complaints of sexual misconduct against the cleric.

The church’s decision-making body, the Holy Synod, could defrock the convicted cleric when it convenes on June 13.

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The Orthodox Church retains a strong conservative influence on social and political life in Cyprus and is also a major economic player, with vast land holdings on the island and stakes in beverage, banking and other sectors.

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