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January 04, 2001 04:53am
'Naked Campaigner' Gets Courtroom Exposure
Source: Reuters

(LONDON) -- A British campaigner was due to stand trial in London on Thursday, charged with causing a public nuisance by refusing to wear clothes, court officials said.

Vincent Bethell, from Coventry in central England, is an ardent supporter of the ``Freedom to be Yourself Campaign'' aimed at legalizing non-sexual public nudity in Britain.

As the law currently stands, anyone appearing naked in public can be prosecuted under the Public Order Act of 1986.

The 28-year-old former art student first exposed himself to the public in June 1998 when he stripped off in London's Piccadilly Circus, and has since made naked protests everywhere from Covent Garden to Euston Station.

In August 2000 he pledged not to get dressed again until nudity was legalized and has been held ever since in a cell in Brixton prison, forbidden from mingling with other prisoners because of his nakedness.

Since beginning his campaign, Bethell, who views himself as a freedom fighter, has clocked up a catalog of fines, spells in police cells and court appearances. Last November his notoriety increased when he stood in a Southwark courtroom with nothing on.

Although his campaign has attracted some support from naturists, Bethell has distanced himself from the naturist movement, saying it promotes segregated nakedness and reinforces ideas that the human body is freakish or abnormal.

Outlining his beliefs on his Web site, he writes: ``I have lots of faults and I am ugly (I am very unhappy). My realization of this is so profound that I cannot restrain myself in trying to become truer to myself, truer to humanity-love-beauty: life.''

His trial at Southwark Crown Court is expected to last four days.

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