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Priest fights church homosexuality charge

Nicosia (Reuter) - A Greek Cypriot priest accused of homosexuality by his church will today answer its charges while a Nottingham-based priest has decided to sue the archbishopric for libel for naming him in the affair.

Archimandrite Pangratios Meraclis, 39, denies allegations of moral impropriety. The Nottingham priest described on the charge sheet as a homosexual is Iakovos Savva, who has let it be known through his lawyer that he intends to bring libel proceedings.

The threat of legal action against the church is the latest twist in an affair that sparked some of the worst rioting in years in Nicosia, when Mr Meraclis's supporters besieged the archbishopric before being dispersed by riot police.

"We believe the procedure [trial] against Meraclis is a complete illegality. It was based on the testimony of incompetent witnesses and church rules were not followed." said his lawyer Efstathios Efstathiou, an MP and chairman of the parliamentary legal affairs committee.

Two members of the Holy Synod have publicly agreed with lawyers who criticised the procedure against Mr Meraclis , a taxi driver, as a violation of church rules. The two men who testified against him and a massage parlour owner, have since moved to Romania.