A group of people gathered outside the Nicosia district court early on Wednesday in support of Morphou Bishop Neophytos, there to defend himself for violating coronavirus decrees and holding a church service on Epiphany Day during lockdown.

The controversial bishop was not allowed into the court room because he refused to put on a mask. He arrived at court at 8.30am to face charges for refusing to pay a €300 fine when he held a public church service on January 6 when decrees provided for services to be carried out without anyone in the congregation.

Lawyer Nicos Clerides said his client was not allowed into the court room in defiance of articles of the Constitution on the bishop’s right to be present. The hearing was adjourned for September 24.

Based on the charge sheet, the bishop is accused of prompting people to attend an illegal gathering.

The lawyer said this was not the case, however.

“He did not force anyone,” Clerides said arguing the bishop was merely carrying out his duties.

He also said that the line of defence will be that all the decrees on the measures against the spread of coronavirus are illegal and unconstitutional.

Holding banners reading ‘hands off our Bishop’ and ‘Morphou Neophytos we are with you’, about a couple of dozen people stood outside the court as an orange weather warning was in force for high temperatures.

He was also fined, along with ten others, for not wearing a mandatory face mask indoors.

The cleric is facing charges of breaking the quarantine law and failing to adhere to coronavirus restrictions.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail earlier this year, Clerides said his client believes the coronavirus related decrees were unlawful because they violate civil liberties for a peaceful assembly as well as the right to worship.