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Priest in court on sex charge

Extradition over alleged molestation of girl 'could take six months'

Rita Joseph, New Delhi

March 22, 2012

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An Indian priest accused of molesting a teenage girl in the US appeared in a Delhi court today in a case relating to his extradition. But the case was adjourned till April 4. Father Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul is charged with molesting a 14-year-old girl in 2004 when he was parish priest of Blessed Sacrament Church, Minnesota. Following an Interpol alert, the priest was arrested and refused bail by Tamil Nadu police from Erode district on March 16. The girl who claimed the priest sexually assaulted her, reportedly said she went to him to seek advice on becoming a nun. But Fr Jeyapaul denied that she had ever visited him. He said today the allegations against him were “fabricated and baseless” and that he had “never known” her. Fr Selvanathen, spokesman for Ootacamund diocese, said the canonical procedure was applied and the priest was suspended two years ago. He said “the priest is neither allowed to exercise his ministry nor given any responsibility”. Processing the extradition request could take up to six months, legal experts say. Foreign priests are sent to the US to help fill shortages in American parishes. Last year, the Crookston diocese, as part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the alleged victim, agreed to pay $750,000 as compensation. Related links: Wanted priest to fight extradition  
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