French police have released a suspect who was arrested following the shooting of a Greek Orthodox priest in Lyon, and said the gunman is still on the loose.
According to the Lyon prosecutor’s office, the man who was arrested shortly after the shooting on Saturday was released as police found no evidence of his involvement.
The priest, 45-year-old father-of-two Nikolas Kakavelakis, was fired at twice while he was closing the church at about 4pm. He remains in a critical condition.
According to the Greek Orthodox Holy Diocese of France, the victim was scheduled to return to Greece after working at the Lyon church where he was shot.
“We pray for a speedy recovery and unequivocally condemn all forms of violence,” the diocese said in a statement.
There is still no known motive for the shooting. It is not being investigated by anti-terrorism prosecutors, and is being treated as an attempted murder investigation by the Lyon prosecutor’s office.
Police cordons around the church were removed on Sunday, and the search area was widened to the broader Lyon area, according to the national police service.
It follows a high security alert across the whole of France following the killing of three people at a church in Nice on Thursday, amid global tensions over cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed published in a French newspaper.
The shooting also came amid tensions within Lyon’s Greek Orthodox community.
The victim is understood to have had a long-running legal dispute with a former monk who was convicted of defamation, according to French media reports.
The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in France, Emmanuel Adamakis, told French radio station Europe 1 that Kakavelakis had been relieved of his duties to conduct services in Lyon and “had been asked to return to Greece”.
The attack appeared to have taken place in a small courtyard in the back of the church, where the priest had been living in an official church apartment, Mr Adamakis said.
Antoine Callot, the pastor at another Greek Orthodox church in Lyon, said that the city’s Greek Orthodox community had not received any threats, but added that he had asked police for security protection at his church after Saturday’s shooting.
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