Published: 11:09 am, September 8, 2014 Story By:
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Ajay Garg said he found a prima facie case for extraditing Fr Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, accused of repeatedly sexually assaulting the 14-year-old girl who, as according to records, is undergoing treatment for post traumatic stress disorder.
“Hence, I hereby recommend to Union of India the extradition of fugitive criminal Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul to the requesting state i.e. US,” the judge said on Friday.
The Ministry of External Affairs, through special public prosecutor Naveen Kumar Matta, had moved the court saying that a request was received from the US in February 2011 seeking extradition of Jeyapaul to stand trial in the case.
Giving details of records received from US Embassy, the ministry told the court that Jeyapaul was serving as a priest in three churches in Minnesota and had allegedly met the girl during a conference. It said that the girl went to the church in 2004 when he allegedly sexually assaulted her and continued to abuse her until August 2005, while referring to the documents received from the USA.
If convicted for offences alleged against him there, the priest may get a jail term of up to 30 years. The prosecutor also argued before the court that Fr Jeyapaul had repeatedly threatened the girl of dire consequences if she disclosed about the incident to anyone and a warrant for his arrest was issued on December 28, 2010, by a court in Roseau County there.
During the adjudication of the matter, the accused who came back to India in August 2005, denied all the allegations leveled against him. The fugitive priest claimed in the court that he was not involved in any crime and the case was lodged against him due to discrimination. His counsel told the court that Jeyapaul returned to India on August 31, 2005 to see his ailing mother and no complaint was lodged against him until then.
Countering his submissions, the prosecutor told the court that documents received from the US were sufficient to arrive at a conclusion that prima facie a case of extradition was made out against the accused. The court, after hearing the arguments and going through the records, recommended the government to extradite Jeyapaul saying that chances of false implication of the accused were ruled out.
“The instant case is based on the testimony of a young girl, duly investigated by competent authorities who have no concern with the appointment of fugitive criminal as a priest. Therefore, chances of false implication of the fugitive criminal are prime facie ruled out. Further, fugitive criminal would get an opportunity to raise his defense and assail the prosecution case at the time of trial,” the court said.
Naveen Kumar Matta, a public prosecutor for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters that it was up to the federal government to decide whether the priest should be sent to the U.S. to stand trial.
Fr Jeyapaul, 59, has denied molesting the girl in 2004 when he was working at the Blessed Sacrament Church in Greenbush, near the Canadian border.
The priest was denied permission to return to the US after his 2005 visit as he was then accused of having an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old.
The criminal case relating to the 14-year-old was filed later.
Vatican officials had reportedly recommended Jeyapaul’s removal from the priesthood, but the local Indian bishop instead sentenced him to a year in a monastery through a canonical trial.
Fr Jeyapaul was one of many foreign priests brought to the U.S. to help fill shortages in American parishes.
He was arrested in Erode, a city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, in 2012 after Interpol issued an alert and has been in prison since.