Indian priest accused of child abuse in US says he is not guilty

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Ootacamund (Tamil Nadu), Apr 7 (ANI): An Indian Catholic priest, who has been charged with sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the U.S., said on Tuesday that the charges against him were baseless.

Reverend Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul, 55, was accused of molesting two teenage girls over the last six years.

Jeyapaul, who is presently staying at the Bishop's house in Ootacamund in Tamil Nadu, said charges against him were not true and that he is ready to prove his innocence.

"It is a false accusation against me. I am not guilty, I am innocent. And, I am ready to prove myself." he said.

"I don't know because I have sent the information, I am ready to come, but they did not call me."

Revelations of sexual abuse of children by priests and alleged cover-ups have surfaced almost daily in several countries over the past few weeks.

Jeyapaul was among many foreign priests who were called to fill shortages in American. parishes. He had gone to Minnesota in 2004 and was assigned to work at the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Greenbush. Reports say he came back to India in 2005 to visit his ailing mother.

He said he had been falsely targeted to extort money from the Minnesota diocese.

"The motive behind is that in US they want to get money from the Dioceses'. That is why they do," said Jeyapaul.

Jeyapaul denied he was running away from law or was in the hiding.

"I am not hiding anywhere else. I am residing at Ooty. They need not search me at all, they can come straight to the bishop's house then they ask anything to me. I am ready to tell openly everything. So I am not hiding anywhere, I am here in Ooty, they can come straight to me here," he said.

The prosecutor in the case in U.S., Lisa Hanson, said earlier that she was seeking Jeyapaul extradition. He could face 30 years in prison on each count, if convicted.

Meanwhile, Bishop A Amalraj, head of the Ootacamund diocese in Tamil Nadu, told media that in the wake of new developments in the case, the matter would be referred to the Catholic Bishops Conference of India.

"As the above allegations could not be proved beyond doubt, he was placed under the direct supervision of the bishop. Now, as the same allegations have come up to limelight through the press, we are studying the matter in detail, and the same has been referred to the CBCI-the Catholic Bishop Conference of India, the highest Catholic organisation in India for necessary directives on the matter," said Amalraj. (ANI)

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