Sunday, January 20, 2013

Stay on trial to help murder-accused priests, nun

A legal expert says the demand for re-investigation of Sister Abhaya murder case could delay the trial process, helping the priests and nun accused in the case.
Kerala’s High Court on Wednesday suspended trial proceedings in the 20-year old case admitting a petition from rights activist Jomon Puthenpurackal for re-investigation of the case.

“This could prolong the trial for years," Dr Sebastian Paul, a Supreme Court lawyer and media analyst told ucanews.com.

He said the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which probed the case, took 16 years to arrest the accused.

A new investigation could take longer as vital evidence has been destroyed.“This petition may indirectly help the accused avoid trial,” he said.

Puthenpurackal's petition said the CBI did not probe several significant aspects of the alleged murder.

The CBI did not investigate whether Sister Abhaya was raped before she died and who was responsible for tampering with the victim's medical reports at the government forensic laboratory in Thiruvananthapuram, he said.

The activist said he approached the High Court to get justice for the victim and her family.

“It is quite clear the three accused will walk free if the trial proceeds based on the existing evidence,” Puthenpurackal said.

A special CBI court processing the case had earlier rejected the activist's petition but the High Court accepted it and sent notices to the accused and investigators, seeking their response to the petition.

The victim, Sister Abhaya, was found dead in a well at her convent in Kottayam, in Kerala, on March 27, 1992. She was 19 when she died.

Investigators initially called her death a suicide but requests from the nun's superiors resulted in CBI taking up the case.

The federal agency’s investigation led to the arrest of Father Thomas M Kottoor, Fr Jose Puthrukkayil and a Sister Sephi in November 2008, 16 years after the alleged murder.

The prosecution says Sister Sephi killed the young nun with the blunt end of an axe after Sister Abhaya caught her in a compromising position with the two priests in the convent’s kitchen. The priests then helped dispose of the body.

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