The Kerala High Court on Tuesday declined to grant interim protection from arrest to two priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian church who face sexual assault charges, PTI reported. The court adjourned the hearing on their anticipatory bail pleas to Monday.

The High Court also directed police to produce the complaint of sexual harassment filed by the woman’s husband and other documents related to the case.

Abraham Varghese and Job Mathew moved their anticipatory bail petitions in the High Court a day after the Kerala Police’s Crime Branch booked four priests on charges of raping and molesting a woman. The priests, in their pleas, rejected the woman’s allegations and claimed that the crime was registered against them “solely at the instance of the political pressure exerted by certain vested interests to derive political mileage”.

The prosecution said the anticipatory bail pleas had been moved, “even before the ink had dried on the FIR”, according to Manorama Online.

Meanwhile, the head of the Orthodox Church, Catholicos Baselios Mar Thoma Paulose II, said the church would cooperate in the investigation and said there will be no opposition to legal procedures, according to Manorama Online.

The priests are accused of blackmailing and sexually abusing the woman for three years. In a letter to the church, the woman’s husband, from Tiruvalla in Pathanamthitta district, claimed that the priests used his wife’s confession, which is meant to be a secret under church laws, to blackmail her. He named eight people in the letter and sought action against them.

Following the allegations, the church sent the priests on leave last week. The National Commission of Women on Wednesday wrote to the Kerala police chief seeking an investigation.