New Delhi An Indian court has acquitted a Catholic bishop accused of raping a nun, sparking widespread outrage and protests. Bishop Franco Malakal, 54, was acquitted by a court in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Friday, saying the prosecution had failed to prove any charges against him.
The nun, whose identity is protected under Indian law, alleged that Malakal, then bishop of a diocese in the northern state of Punjab, raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016 when she They used to go to convents. She lived in the southern state of Kerala.
The convent is part of the Missionaries of Jesus, Jalandhar Diocese. The nun was “harassed” and “threatened” by the bishop for two years in an attempt to remain silent about the alleged rape, but she “finally dared in 2016” to come forward. Told CBS News in an off-camera. Interview in 2019
The Vatican did not immediately respond to a request for comment by CBS News on Friday.
His allegations against the bishop surfaced in 2018, when he petitioned the Vatican and wrote an open letter to Pope Francis’ representative in the Indian capital, Delhi. When the story unfolded, it led to large-scale demonstrations, led by a group of nuns who supported him, as well as activists who called for justice and for the arrest of the bishop. ۔ He was arrested later that year.
Five monks, close associates of the woman accused of raping her, have accused the Kerala church of ignoring the allegations and pressuring them to withdraw the case.
Sister Nina Rose, a close associate of the nun who made the rape allegations, told CBS News in 2019, “Father James Orthail offered 10 acres of land and a separate convent for six of us if we withdraw the case.” He said someone allegedly offered $ 675,000 to a rape survivor to keep quiet.
The nuns even wrote a direct letter to Pope Francis in 2019, when they were hosting a historic summit on the sexual exploitation of priests, but they say their letters were never answered.
“At least the pope should see our tears,” Sister Alfie Pallasrell, one of the five nuns who is publicly supporting the claimant, told CBS News in an emotionally charged interview in 2019. “We have no words to describe how much we are in trouble.”
He told CBS News that Palaseril, along with other nuns who took part in the protest, was later harassed, including with disciplinary action, threats of transfer and expulsion from the party.
The bishop’s death surprised the nuns and the lawyers fighting the case.
“We will definitely challenge the decision in a higher court after looking into the matter in detail,” Special Public Prosecutor Jitish J. Babu told CBS News on Friday.
“The verdict is shocking. The victim has been denied justice, but we take it as a challenge,” Sister Lucy Kalpura, another close associate of the nun, told CBS News. told. “We are all with her to support our sister; this is just one step in the legal process. We will fight this case in the high court.”
Kalpura was expelled from the Franciscan Clarist Party (FCC) in Kerala in 2019.
Indian TV showed a bishop smiling as he walked out of a court in the state of Kerala on Friday. His legal team told CBS News partner network BBC News that it had “broken all evidence” against him.