Attorney general Costas Clerides has ordered an investigation into whether comments by Morphou Bishop Neophytos constitute an offence.
In a written statement, Clerides said that he has written to police chief Kypros Michaelides asking police to investigate the possibility of a criminal offence in connection with the recent remarks by Bishop “on gays and related issues.”
Police spokesman Christos Andreou said that the police chief has ordered an immediate inquiry. The findings will be sent to the attorney general for further instructions, he added.
Yesterday, Costas Gavriellides — a former president of Cyprus’ LGBTI NGO Accept and currently an adviser to the president on multiculturalism, acceptance and respect for diversity, wrote to the attorney general asking him to look into the issue.
In his letter, Gavrielides had urged a change in legislation so that the launch of any legal proceedings for hate speech does not rest exclusively in the hands of a single body — the attorney general’s office.
To this comment, the attorney general countered that “before making such statements, it would be best the adviser to the president knows at least the basic provisions of the constitution and respects its institutions.”
Bishop Neophytos has found himself in the eye of the storm after excerpts of his speech at Akaki on June 25 went viral. He argued that men become homosexual if their mothers enjoy anal sex when pregnant with them and claimed that gay men ’emit an odour’.
And he said it was hypocritical to mourn for the two children murdered by convicted serial killer Nicos Metaxas because of the high abortion rate in Cyprus.
Political parties have slammed the statements while government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou issued a written statement late on Tuesday saying the remarks violated the legally protected principle of equality of all citizens and should be retracted.
And in a written statement, Maria Stylianou Lottidou, Commissioner for Administration and Protection of Human Rights said the remarks were racist as they contained the elements of denigration and rejection.
Bishop Chrysostomos of Kyrenia also stepped into the controversy saying that members of the clergy have no place in couples’ bedrooms.
In an announcement on Wednesday, Gavrielides said that this was the third time that he has written to the attorney general asking him to intervene on the specific issue.
“He is urged to confirm that it is homophobic speech and to suggest ways to start police inquiries,” he said.
Similar letters regarding attacks by the church on the LGBTI community had been sent in 2016 and in 2017, but the attorney general had not “reacted or replied,” Gavrielides said.
One month after the bishop’s statements and a week after what was sent went public, legal proceedings have not been launched, Gavrielides said on Wednesday adding that as a modern European country this is something that should be done without delay.
In the four years since adoption of the law on hate speech, police have not investigated a complaint nor legal proceedings taken against public homophobic or transphobic hate speech, even though there were instances when this was requested officially by organised groups, Gavrielides added.
The bishop’s comments are unscientific and irrational, constitute a clear case of public homophobic hate speech since with fabricated arguments it incites intolerance of the LGBTI community while at the same time it insults the parents of homosexuals and targets their mothers, Gavrielides concluded.