Priest held, three others to surrender in Kerala sexual assault case

The accused priests

A day after the Kerala High Court rejected the bail pleas of four priests who allegedly raped a woman for many years, police on Thursday arrested Father Job Mathew one of the four accused.

He was taken into custody from Kollam (south Kerala) and efforts are on to nab three others, police said.

Kerala police have registered a rape case against another priest belonging to the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, which is already reeling under allegations of sexual abuse against four of its priests.

"Now the accused priests have finally surrendered". In shocking a statement to the police, she had also said that even her confidential confessions were used to blackmail her.

The public prosecutor said the victim had, in her statement to a magistrate, narrated in detail the abuse to which she was subjected.

In a scathing observation, while rejecting the bail pleas, the court yesterday said, "It appears that the applicants have acted as predators and have taken undue advantage of the position of the survivor". When she sought help from three other priests, who were counsellors and her friends, they too abused her.

"The reasonable possibility of the accused managing to obstruct the course of justice, if released at this stage, can not be brushed aside", it said.

"We had transferred him out of the complainant's parish as a punishment", Malankara Church priests trustee Father MO John told The Indian Express. "The priests have been suspended and they have no responsibilities in the church now".

According to the woman's complaint to the police, the issue was taken up with the Church authorities and they made a decision to settle it between the two sides. It is also possible that the priests may surrender in court or in front of the investigation team, according to India Today.

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