Vatican finance chief to learn of trial fate next month

Australian cardinal George Pell reads a statement to reporters as he leaves the Quirinale hotel after meeting members of the Australian group of relatives and victims of priestly sex abuses, in Rome, Italy. A lawyer for the most senior Vatican official ever charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis told an Australian court on Tuesday, April 17, 2018 that Pell could have been targeted with false accusations to punish him for the crimes of other clerics. (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Updated 17 April 2018
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Vatican finance chief to learn of trial fate next month

  • Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell's barrister has argued the case should be thrown out of court
  • The defendant is the most senior Catholic cleric to be charged with criminal offenses linked to the Church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal

MELBOURNE: Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell will find out next month if he will stand trial on sexual offense charges, as his lawyer argued Tuesday the cleric was being targeted to punish the Catholic Church.
Pell, a top adviser to Pope Francis, is accused of multiple historic offenses relating to incidents that allegedly occurred years ago. He took leave to return to Australia to fight the allegations being heard in the Melbourne Magistrates Court.
The court said magistrate Belinda Wallington would deliver her decision on whether the case should proceed to trial on May 1.
It followed a weeks-long committal hearing involving witness statements and cross-examinations by Pell’s lawyers. He was not present for Tuesday’s final hearing.
His barrister Robert Richter told the court the case should be thrown out as the complainants were unreliable and not credible, Melbourne’s Herald Sun reported.
He added that the allegations were “the product of fantasy or mental health problems... or pure invention in order to punish the representative of the Catholic Church in this country for not stopping child abuse by others of children.”
“Cardinal Pell has been seen as the face of that responsibility,” he said.
Prosecutor Mark Gibson said while there were conflicts in the testimony of witnesses, they were for a jury to decide on, adding that nothing Richter referred to “amounts to a defect in the evidence,” Melbourne’s The Age reported.
Pell, 76, a former Sydney and Melbourne archbishop, is the most senior Catholic cleric to be charged with criminal offenses linked to the Church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal.
The exact details and nature of the allegations have not been made public, other than they involve “multiple complainants.”


Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

Updated 25 April 2018
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Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Wednesday found a high-profile spiritual guru Asaram Bapu guilty of raping a teenage female devotee in 2013 and he faces a maximum of life in prison.
The verdict against 77-year-old Bapu was read out inside a prison in the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan state because of fears that his followers may resort to violence.
The case is the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India that have fueled public protests and raised questions about how police handle the cases and treat the victims.
In August last year, another popular and flamboyant Indian spiritual guru, Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of raping two female followers.
Judge Madhusudhan Sharma will announce the prison term for Bapu later after hearing arguments from the prosecution and Bapu’s attorneys.
Bapu has denied the rape and can appeal his conviction in a higher court.
The girl in her complaint to the police in 2013 accused Bapu of raping her when she visited his retreat in Jodhpur with her mother. The girl’s family said they had been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.
Bapu has been in prison since his arrest in the case in 2013.
On Wednesday, security was tight around the prison complex and in states where the self-styled guru has a considerable following.
Religious sects also wield considerable political clout in India with several politicians as followers. Asaram is also on trial along with his son Narayan Sai in a separate rape case where two sisters have accused the two men of sexual assault.