Cops summon bishop, say statements 'contradictory'

Cops summon bishop, say statements 'contradictory'

Bishop Franco Mullakal of Jalandhar diocese.

Police on Wednesday summoned Franco Mulakkal, the rape accused Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jalandhar, to appear before the investigating team on September 19.

The bishop will be questioned by the team led by Vaikom DySP K Subhash, IG (Ernakulam Range) Vijay Sakhare told reporters in Kochi after a review meeting.

Sakhare said there were many “contradictions” in statements, of the complainant, accused and witnesses, collected during the probe and the team was ironing them out.

“If we don’t clear these contradictions, preparing the charge sheet will be difficult. These contradictions will also benefit the accused,” he said.

According to the complainant, a Kottayam-based nun attached to the Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) congregation, the bishop raped her multiple times between 2014 and 2016. The bishop has denied the allegation and said he, and the Church, were being targeted as part of a conspiracy.

Last week, the nun wrote to the Vatican’s representative in India, Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, seeking justice and highlighting the Church’s apathy to her repeated pleas for intervention. She said Franco was trying to manipulate the investigation with “money, political power and support from other ecclesiastical authorities”.

Minister for Industries E P Jayarajan said the government was with the victim and the investigation was moving in the right direction.

The police team is set to submit an affidavit in the high court, on Thursday, with details of the investigation. The team had questioned the bishop in Jalandhar last month. DySP Subhash told reporters that though he had initially submitted to the court that there was evidence against Franco, he could notice “contradictions” after the bishop’s statement was recorded in Jalandhar.

Stir finds more support

Five MJ sisters are protesting in Kochi, since Saturday, demanding Franco’s arrest. On Wednesday, prominent political leaders and members of the film industry turned up at the venue to extend support.

“We strongly urge the government and the women’s commission to immediately support the women who have shown courage to speak up and fight against those who have misused their power and position to a level of exploitation and abuse,” Women in Cinema Collective said in a statement.

P C George, independent MLA from Poonjar, expressed regret for calling the nun a “prostitute” during a media interaction. He, however, said he maintained his views questioning the nun’s motive in making the allegation.

The National Commission for Women has summoned the MLA over the remark.

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