Agape Ministries Church 'not a doomsday cult' - lawyer

The Advertiser, Australia/June 7, 2010

THE controversial Agape Ministries Church is "not a doomsday cult" and any claims to the contrary are "a load of rubbish", a criminal lawyer says.

Barrister Craig Caldicott held an impromptu press conference on the steps of the Adelaide Magistrates Court this afternoon.

He is representing Antonio Di Blasio - one of two men arrested during police raids on Agape Ministries properties last month.

Outside court Mr Caldicott said his client was innocent and would be acquitted at trial.

"There has been reference to a doomsday cult in all of this," he said. "My client has never been a member of a doomsday cult, he's never been a member of any cult, he is a Christian person.

"Agape Ministries is not a doomsday cult, and those who say it is have a vested interest in a media beat-up... it's a load of rubbish."

Di Blasio, 47, of Upper Sturt, has yet to plead to one count of acquiring a firearm without a permit and one count of possessing or using a prohibited weapon.

He was was arrested during police raids on Agape Ministries property which allegedly seized 15 illegal firearms, extendable batons and numerous rounds of ammunition.

Former members and opponents of Agape Ministries say it is a cult led by Pastor Rocco "Brother Roc" Leo who is currently being sought by police.

They claim Leo has defrauded millions from his followers, who believe life on Earth will end after microchips are implanted into everyone by the end of 2012.

In District Court transcripts, Leo claims his congregation embraced heavy security after being threatened by "heavily-armed Colombians".

In a lawsuit, disabled woman Silvia Melchiorre claims Leo tricked her out of $420,000 by promising he would heal her.

Today, Di Blasio's matter was adjourned until July.

Outside court, Mr Caldicott said his client had a licence for all of his firearms, which were registered and lawfully stored in locked containers.

"I believe police may have targeted him because of his association with Agape Ministries," he said.

"But if the authorities undertake decent investigations, they will get to the bottom of this and see my client is not a member of any doomsday cult.

"These are minor firearm offences, and that's all there is." He said he had not asked his client about his religious beliefs.

"As I understand it, Agape Ministries is a Christian organisation," he said. "To say they are all criminals would be like saying every member of the Uniting Church is a criminal if one of them were to be convicted of something."

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