Monday, February 04, 2013

Catholics defend priest accused of sex attack

Catholic leaders are questioning the investigation of a Salesian priest accused of molesting a minor girl in Pune.
Father Igidius Falcao, a vice principal at Don Bosco high school in Pune, Maharashtra state, was arrested January 21 after a 14-year-old Catholic student complained he had attempted to molest her on January 2 in his office.

Father Falcao, 61, was transfered from police custody to magisterial custody on Monday, where he will stay until February 11, his lawyer said.

He applied for bail yesterday, but police are seeking an extension of custody while they investigate the priest’s past positions in Mumbai, according to police inspector Reshma Mulani.

“We feel that there is certainly political pressure to frame the priest,” said Peter D’Cruz, vice president of the Minority Affairs Department of the Congress Party in Pune district.

“We have learnt that a senior police officer, under political pressure, asked the local police investigating the case to add attempted rape, although the original complaint was only of molestation,” he said.

John Rock Paul, former elected counsellor of Pune Municipal Corporation, said Hindu youth activists stormed the school when the priest was arrested, demanding his firing. A scuffle broke out with students at the school, and the police booked the Hindus for trespassing while the Christians were booked for rioting.

“Shockingingly, while the [Hindu] leader went to the police station and got his men released that night, Christian youths had to appear in court the next day before being released on bail,” D’Cruz said.

A handcuffed, bespectacled Father Falcao, wearing a balaclava and shawl, appeared calm when he was produced before the court Monday, although his lawyer said he has moved for medical treatment for his client, who is suffering from chronic diabetes and high blood pressure.

Father Savio Silvera, a spokesperson for the Salesian province, said the allegations against Fr. Falcao were flawed.

“As per the attendance records of the school, the girl never came to the school on the day of the alleged incident,” Fr. Silvera said.

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