Kollam, Kerala: One of the four priests from Kerala involved in the sexual abuse of a parishioner, Father Job Mathew, has been arrested from a place near Kollam, police said on Thursday.
The accused priest, however, denied he was arrested and insisted he had surrendered.
Mathew was taken into custody while he was on his way to a court. He was taken to the Kollam district police chief’s office, where he was being interrogated.
The arrest of the accused Malankara Orthodox Church priests became a certainty after the High Court in Kochi on Wednesday rejected the anticipatory bail plea of three of them named in the complaint.
The remaining two, Father Sony Varghese and Father Jaice K. George, are currently on the run, a police officer said.
A woman who regularly visited the Malankara Orthodox Church had accused five priests of sexually abusing her for a decade. Her husband had complained that she came under duress from at least five priests.
The ordeal started with one priest exploiting his wife and blackmailing her, he alleged, but when she sought help from another priest, he too threatened her and shared her details with a fellow priest and she was eventually victimised by five of them.
After pressure mounted on the police with the National Commission for Women taking cognisance of the case, the four priests were charged with sexual assault.
One of the priests escaped action as the victim had mentioned only four names, the police officer said.
The court last week also refused any relief to the accused, who had sought a direction that police should not arrest them till their bail petition was heard.
The Kottayam-headquartered church has gone into a limbo since the allegations have surfaced and using their influence, they are believed to have exercised maximum pressure on the Pinarayi Vijayan government.
However, with the court taking a strong position, the church authorities are understood to have informed these priests that they have no other option but to respect the law of the land.