A lay Catholic man who supported a rape-accused bishop through social media has been arrested on charges of defaming the alleged victim nun and her supporters in southern India's Kerala state.
Kerala police's cyber wing arrested Kennedy Karimbinkalayil, general secretary of the Catholic Forum, on Oct. 31 from his residence in Kochi, the state's commercial capital. He was remanded in judicial custody for 14 days.
The police action comes following an investigation of a 2019 complaint filed by Sister Anupama Kelamangalathuveli, a nun who acts as a spokesperson for another nun who accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal of raping her.
The nun complained that Karimbinkalayil deliberately engaged in defamation of the alleged victim and her supporters, presenting them as "loose characters" in his attempt to garner support for the bishop accused of rape.
Both the nuns belong to Missionaries of Jesus, a diocesan congregation in northern India's Jalandhar Diocese under Bishop Mulakkal.
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The case began in June 2018 after a former superior general of Missionaries of Jesus complained to police in Kerala that the bishop raped her 13 times when he visited her Kerala convent from 2014 to 2016. The bishop is now facing trial.
Bishop Mulakkal, however, has denied all allegations of rape and holds that the nun filed the complaint against him with malafide intentions after he initiated disciplinary action against her for her violation of religious vows and financial irregularities.
Karimbinkalayil appeared in television discussions and other public debates defending Bishop Mulakkal. He is accused of engaging in character assassination of the alleged rape victim and five other nuns supporting her.
He is also accused of posting similar messages on social media, apparently portraying the nuns as morally corrupt, spreading lies against the bishop, and working against the interest of the Church for personal gains.
If convicted, the layman faces a three-year jail and a fine of 500,000 rupees (US$7,200).
Sister Kelamangalathuveli refused to comment on the arrest.
However, Riju Kanjookaran, the convener of Save our Sisters (SOS), a laity forum that supports the nuns, said the arrest was "a message for all those who use social media to defame the already victimized nuns."
"These nuns are fighting a battle for justice against a very powerful bishop and the Catholic leadership in India. It is a setback to Karimbinkalayil and all others who blindly support Bishop Mulakkal by targeting the nuns," he said.