A Kerala-based Catholic priest on Thursday was sentenced to double life imprisonment for raping a minor girl, The Indian Express reported. A special court in Ernakulam also ordered the accused, Fr Edwin Figarez, to pay a fine of Rs 2.15 lakh under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, making it the first time a priest from the community was tried under the law.
Figarez, 41, will serve his sentences concurrently. His brother was ordered to serve one year in prison for helping him hide from the police, who had registered the case in April. Ajitha, a government doctor who had examined the girl, was found guilty for not reporting the crime.
Figarez, who served as the parish priest at Lourd Matha Church, in Ernakulam district’s Puthenvelikkara, had been accused of sexually abusing the girl several times since January 2016. Figarez, associated with the Kottapuram diocese, had been active in the field of Christian devotional songs. He exploited the girl’s interest in music to abuse her.
His crimes came to light when the girl shared details of the abuse with her mother, who filed a police complaint which was registered on April 1. The accused was absconding after the complaint was registered and surrendered before the court later. The Kottapuram diocese relieved the accused from his priestly duties after the case surfaced.