Delay in bishop's arrest sets off protests

Rape accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal leaves after questioning by the special investigation team of the Kerala police, in Thrippunithura on Thursday. PTI

Kerala Police will continue the interrogation of Franco Mulakkal, the rape accused Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, on Friday.

Kottayam SP Hari Sankar said after two days of questioning the clergyman, on Thursday, that parts of his statement still required “verification”. Franco is accused of having raped a Kottayam-based nun of the Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) congregation, multiple times between 2014 and 2016.

As questioning of the bishop continued at the Crime Branch office in Tripunithura in Ernakulam district, sections of the media reported on a possible arrest by the end of the day. The SP, however, said an arrest would be considered only based on a “holistic analysis” of the investigation after the interrogation was completed. “Three teams will carry out this verification overnight and we hope to complete the interrogation by tomorrow,” Hari Sankar told reporters. The bishop, who is staying at a luxury hotel in Kochi, has been served a notice to appear for the third day’s questioning, at 10.30 am on Friday. The interrogation by the Special Investigation Team commenced at around 11 am on Thursday and went on till 7.30 pm.

The bishop has maintained that the allegation is concocted and the nun is settling personal scores over disciplinary action he had initiated against her.

The bishop had, on Tuesday, sought a pre-arrest bail in the Kerala High Court. The court has adjourned hearing on the plea to September 25. Police have sought legal counsel regarding the pending bail application and expected to receive it by Friday. The SP said the bishop was cooperating with the interrogation.

PROTESTS ERUPT

With about 15 hours of questioning still not leading to the bishop’s arrest, supporters of the complainant took out a protest march in Kochi. A protest led by MJ sisters and activists, demanding the bishop’s arrest, completed 13 days on Thursday. Fr Augustine Vattoli, convener of the Save Our Sisters Action Council condemned the delay in the bishop’s arrest. Earlier in the day, members of the CPI-affiliated All India Youth Federation staged a protest against the bishop, in Tripunithura.

 

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Delay in bishop's arrest sets off protests

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