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Last Updated: Friday, 4 February, 2005, 16:07 GMT
Greek church rocked by scandals
By Richard Galpin
BBC News, Athens

Greek Orthodox church
The church wants to know of other suspicious acts by its clergy
The Greek Orthodox Church has suspended a senior bishop over a scandal that has engulfed the clergy and the judiciary.

He is one of several clergymen alleged to have tried to influence or bribe judges to fix the outcome of trials - some involving drug dealers.

Another priest was arrested on Friday accused of involvement in a series of allegedly fixed trials, as well as the illegal trade of antiquities.

Four judges have been charged with serious disciplinary offences.

More than a dozen other members of the judiciary are now under investigation.

The Metropolitan Bishop Panteleimon of Attica region was summoned to appear before the Orthodox Church's governing body, the Holy Synod, on Friday morning.

He was asked to defend himself against accusations that he had scandalised the church. He denies the claims.

New bill

After a hearing lasting several hours, the Synod decided to suspend him - reportedly because they were not satisfied with his explanations.

Earlier this week, a Greek radio station played a tape recording, allegedly of the bishop telling his lawyer that he had met a high court judge to ensure a court case disputing his appointment as bishop went in his favour.

A second bishop is due to give a written statement to the Holy Synod next week, in connection with allegations of drug dealing.

The government says it will introduce a bill to make the bribing of judges a serious crime, with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.

Leaders of the Greek Orthodox Church have appealed to the population - which is overwhelmingly orthodox - to come forward if they have any information about clergymen suspected of breaking the law.



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