In India, Catholic bishop accused of rape asks Supreme Court to intervene

CNA Staff, Jul 27, 2020 / 04:08 pm (CNA).- After several failures to secure dismissal of charges in lower courts, a Catholic bishop whom a nun has accused of rape has asked India's Supreme Court to dismiss the case.

Bishop Franco Mulakkal of Jullundur has been charged with raping a nun repeatedly over the course of two years, allegations he denies.

His effort to dismiss the charges was rejected in a trial court in March, then again in the Kerala High Court July 7. The court agreed with prosecutors that there was evidence to proceed, The Tribune of India reports.

Mulakkal claims he was falsely accused after he questioned alleged financial irregularities of the victim's convent.

Bishop Mulakkal was arrested in September 2018 amid protests calling for a police investigation of the allegation. He was subsequently released on bail. The bishop was charged in April 2019 with rape, unnatural sex, wrongful confinement, and criminal intimidation. He faces imprisonment of 10 years to life if found guilty.

He was temporarily removed from the administration of his diocese shortly before his arrest.

The bishop's charges stem from a member of the Missionaries of Jesus who has said he raped her during his May 2014 visit to her convent in Kuravilangad, in Kerala. In a 72-page complaint to police, filed in June 2018, she alleged that the bishop sexually abused her more than a dozen times over two years.

The Missionaries of Jesus is based in the Jullundur diocese, and Bishop Mulakkal is its patron.

The bishop has also claimed the allegations were made in retaliation against him because he has acted against the nun’s sexual misconduct. He said the nun was alleged to be having an affair with her cousin's husband.

A witness in the case against the bishop, who is also a member of the Missionaries of Jesus, told investigators Sept. 9, 2018 that from 2015 to 2017 she participated in sexual video chats with the bishop, having been pressured by him, and that he groped and kissed her April 30, 2017, at a convent in Kannur.

The trial was originally set for Nov. 11, 2019, then delayed three weeks. It was then deferred again to Jan. 6 because Mulakkal requested more time for the case.

The bishop skipped a hearing on July 1 at district court in Kottayam, claiming that his house was in a coronavirus containment zone. The prosecutor said this was not true and accused Mulakkal of deliberately delaying the case.

On July 14, officials announced that the bishop had tested positive for coronavirus and was displaying symptoms.

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