ucanews.com reporter, BhopalUpdated: August 28, 2019 08:59 AM GMT
Church leaders are confident that a Catholic priest held in a prison in India’s Jharkhand state over a gang rape will be released because he was falsely accused. (Photo by Donald Tong/pexels)
The High Court in India’s Jharkhand state has agreed to hear an appeal by a Catholic priest against his conviction and his life imprisonment in May for being involved in a gang rape case.
The court accepted Jesuit Father Alphonse Aind’s petition on Aug. 26, his colleague, Jesuit Father Xavier Soreng, confirmed to ucanews.com.
Father Aind was granted bail in March pending the result of his petition to appeal, Father Soreng said.
The court also ordered access to the complete records of the case so that it could initiate a full rehearing, he added.
Father Soreng reiterated that church leaders are confident of Father Aind’s acquittal "as he was falsely accused in the case. We are sure the high court will understand his innocence and he will be released in the end.”
The priest was convicted of conspiring with six men to carry out the mass rape of five women and not reporting the crime to police in the eastern state.
The criminal charges against him included being part of a conspiracy, kidnapping, wrongful confinement, not reporting a crime and possessing and transmitting obscene material through digital platforms.
Father Aind was the principal of the Jesuit-run Stockmann Memorial Middle School in remote Kochang village, Khunti Diocese. He was arrested on June 22, 2018, one day after the June 19 rape allegations were reported to police.
Father Soreng is one of several church figures who say Father Aind has been framed amid a hostile atmosphere toward Christians in Jharkhand since the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.
Six men abducted and raped five young women who were staging a street play to create awareness among local indigenous people about the trafficking of women and children.
Police conceded that the priest saved two Ursuline nuns who were working with the abducted women from being attacked, too.
They maintained, however, that the play angered the attackers because it expressed sentiments against Pathalgadi, a movement asserting tribal autonomy over villages as per provisions in the Indian constitution.
The movement has been projected as a rebellion against some state policies, which tribal leaders say aim to take away their land and resources in the name of development projects.
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