Jalandhar Bishop Franco Mulakkal, who is facing charges of sexually assaulting a nun, was questioned by the Kerala police for six hours at the Kochi Crime Branch office in Tripunithura today. The Kerala Police has maintained that they are under no pressure to refrain from arresting the embattled clergyman.
Bishop Mulakkal -- attached to the Roman Catholic Diocese in Punjab -- came to the Crime Branch office along with his counsel and a few priests in a car with windows covered at 10.55 am. Mediapersons were not allowed to enter the premises of the Crime Branch office, where he was interrogated by a five-member team led by Vaikom Deputy Superintendent of Police K Subhash.
The interrogation, which lasted till late this evening, will resume at 11 am tomorrow. Protesters at the spot raised black flags as the Bishop's vehicle left the premises.
Just days ago, the Missionaries of Jesus Congregation under the Jalandhar diocese had released a photograph of the complainant as part of a series of press releases to prove the Bishop's innocence.
Ahead of the questioning , two top officers -- Inspector General Vijay Sakhre and Kottayam Superintendent of Police Harishankar -- interacted with Mr Subhash at the Inspector General's office in Kochi. "There is no interim order from the court prohibiting the Bishop's arrest. That depends upon how the investigation progresses. We are focusing on sorting out the contradictions in the accused's statements, and that's crucial to the case," a senior police officer told NDTV.
An FIR was registered against the clergyman after the nun -- who is in her late forties -- has accused the Bishop of sexually assaulting her on 13 occasions between 2014 and 2016. The clergyman, booked for rape and unnatural offence, has termed the allegations as "concocted" and "cooked up to wreak vengeance".
He received some relief on Tuesday, when the Kerala High Court agreed to hear his plea for anticipatory bail on September 25. The court also asked the Kerala Government to file an affidavit in this regard.
The Bishop has been summoned to Kerala for questioning for the first time since the nun filed her complaint on June 28. Police had interrogated him in Jalandhar for over eight hours on August 18.
Around 13 kilometres away from the Crime Branch office, nuns sympathetic to the complainant's cause continued their protest along with other inter-church organisations under the "Save Our Sisters" banner through the duration of the interrogation. Some even took out a march to the Inspector General's office in Kochi, only to be halted at police barricades. "We want justice. We want the Bishop arrested. We have been forced to come out in protest because the church has been silent to our plight," one of them said.
(With inputs from IANS)
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