Abusive priests misused position: Women's panel

Women's panel records women's statement in case against priests
Rekha Sharma also spoke to the victim's husband.

Kottayam: The National Commission for Women on Saturday recorded the statement of a married woman whose husband had recently accused five priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of using his wife's secret confession to blackmail and sexually abuse her.

NCW chairperson Rekha Sharma visited the victim at her residence in Pathanamthitta district in the morning and recorded her statement. The commission also spoke to the victim's husband.

Later, talking to reporters, the commission chief alleged that the priests 'misused' their position and sexually assaulted the woman by using her 'secret confession.' Earlier this week, the Kerala High Court had declined to grant two priests any interim protection from arrest over sexual assault charges.

The two had moved the court after the Crime Branch wing of Kerala Police slapped rape charges against four of the five priests, including them, in the case. Two other accused priests have also approached the court seeking bail.

The court would consider their anticipatory bail pleas on Monday. Last month, a man from Pathanamthitta district had accused the five priests of using his wife's secret confession to blackmail and sexually abuse her.

The incident came to light after an audio clip containing the victim's husband's purported conversation with a church official alleging sexual abuse of his wife by the priests was widely circulated on the social media.

The investigation team had recorded the statement of the victim's husband earlier. The man had reportedly handed over copies of evidence against the priests to the crime branch team.

A Crime Branch probe was ordered into the case last week by state police chief Loknath Behara.

Veteran CPM leader and chairman of the Kerala Administrative Reforms Commission V S Achuthanandan and the National Commission for Women (NCW) had written to Behara demanding a probe into the charges.

Crime Branch inspector general S Sreejith is leading the probe.

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