Spanish police have reportedly freed three nuns from India who say they have been held against their will in a cloistered convent in the northwestern pilgrimage city of Santiago de Compostela.
The women claimed that despite their desire to leave the Convent of Madres Mercedarias, the mother superior prevented them from doing so.
They said that she threatened them by saying they would be automatically deported - a false assertion as they have reportedly have permanent residence in Spain - and by telling them it would bring shame on their families.
No arrests have been made and the nuns have not pressed any charges.
According to El Diaro, a popular Spanish news website which gained exclusive access to magistrate Ana Lopez-Suevos’s report, the women, now in their thirties, came as teenagers from India without realizing that the convent was cloistered. They have all been in the convent since the 1990s.
The investigation began late last year when another nun, who had escaped the same convent, reported to the national police that her former colleagues were being held in the convent against their will. The building in which they were forced to live, she claimed, had a locked door through which they could leave. But both keys to that door were under permanent custody.
The office of the Archbishop of Santiago has denied all the accusations, telling Europa Press that the nuns’ requests to leave the order were in process. The process, they said, “takes time”.
The judge who launched the investigation is looking into “conditions of virtual slavery” and “illegal detention against moral integrity, threats, and coercion”, according to El Diaro.
The three nuns were freed on Saturday by police and have been relocated to a safe house in Madrid.
The convent from which they were freed is in the historical center of Santiago de Compostela, a city located in the Northern Galicia region, famous for being the last stop of the Camino de Santiago.
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