Kottayam, Sept. 21, 2018: The Kerala Police today arrested bishop Franco Mulakkal for allegedly raping a nun multiple times between 2014 and 2016, a police source said. An official announcement is expected later.
With this, Mulakkal has become the first Indian Catholic bishop to be arrested in a case of sexual abuse against a nun.
The arrest was made on Friday afternoon in Kochi. He was being interrogated by the police for the past three days.
Franco Mulakkal is posted at the Jalandhar Diocese and he allegedly raped the nun during official visits to Kerala. He has been relieved of his duties at the Jalandhar Diocese.
Before arresting the bishop, the police recorded a fresh statement of the nun who has accused him of rape. They also sought clarifications on some evidences.
HOW POLICE TRAPPED FRANCO MULAKKAL
Mulakkal’s arrest comes after three days of questioning during which the bishop made a few inconsistent statements.
While denying the allegations leveled against him, the Mulakkal claimed he did not stay at the convent in Kuravilangad on May 5, 2014, the day the nun was allegedly raped for the first time.
He maintained that he only visited the convent and stayed at another convent in Muthalakodam.
When police cross-checked this information with his driver and another nun who made entries of his visit in the register, they found that the bishop and his driver actually stayed in the Kuravilangad convent on the said day.
The bishop’s version was challenged by another nun in the Muthalakodam convent. She denied that bishop visited the convent.
MOBILE DATA SHOW HE STAYED AT CONVENT
To further verify these claims against the bishop, the police collected the bishop’s mobile tower location data. The data indicated that he was present on the night of May 5, 2014, in the same convent where the rape victim was posted.
During interrogation, when police asked him to clarify his statement in the wake of these evidences, the bishop remained silent.
BISHOP PRESENTED AN EDITED VIDEO AS PROOF
To ward off allegations against him, the rape-accused bishop had provided a DVD of an event that took place on May 6, 2014 (a day after the first rape). Through the DVD, the bishop asked if he had raped the nun, why would she attend an event with him the next day?
After verifying the DVD, police found that its contents were edited and that video revealed that nun was "deeply upset and depressed" on the day when the event was held.
This was also confirmed by the nun’s relatives to the police. They told police that when they asked about it, she said she had a severe migraine on the previous night.
WHAT ARE THE ALLEGATIONS
The 45-year-old nun had filed a police complaint against bishop Franco Mulakkal on June 27. She is associated with the Missionaries of Jesus congregation in Kuravilangad in Kerala’s Kottayam district.
In her complaint, the nun says that on May 5, 2014 the bishop visited the convent in Kuravilangad and stayed in the guest house in room number 20.
She said the bishop called her to his room at night and forced her to have unnatural sex with him. The next day, the bishop attended a function that was organised by the nun.
The nun has alleged that the bishop raped her 13 times between 2014 and 2016. The bishop has denied these charges. Ever since the allegations surfaced, he has maintained that nun has filed a case against him because of vendetta.
He said that this was because he had ordered an internal probe against her after a woman complained that she was having an affair with her husband.
WHO IS FRANCO MULAKKAL
Bishop Franco Mulakkal is a native of Mattom village in Thrisur district of Kerala. He was ordained as a priest in 1990 and became an auxiliary bishop in 2009. He was appointed as the bishop of Jalandhar in 2013.
The alleged rapes were committed during his tenure at Jalandhar. Facing the heat over the nun’s allegations, he stepped down on September 15 after the Kerala Police summoned him for interrogation.
DESPERATE EFFORTS TO ESCAPE ARREST
Ever since the Kerala nun rape case surfaced, Bishop Franco Mulakkal tried his best to avoid police interrogation and arrest. He used his authority in the Church hierarchy and his clout to defame the victim.
There were reports that he even tried to bribe and lure the nun and her family to get them to withdraw the complaint against him.
The Missionaries of Jesus also supported him and issued press statements against the nun.
However, the course of investigation changed after five nuns from Kuravilangad convent came forward to protest in Kochi and demanded justice for the victim on September 8.
Soon activists, writers, celebrities and ordinary people joined the nuns’ protest demanding justice for the victim.
While ordinary people were supporting the nuns, there were politicians who questioned their motives. Seven-time MLA PC George resorted to character assassination and said the nun who has filed the complaint is a prostitute.
"No one has doubt that the nun is a prostitute. Twelve times she enjoyed it and the 13th time it is rape? Why didn’t she complain the first time? (sic)," he said.
Secretary of Communist Party of India (Marxist) Kodiyeri Balakrishnan in his article in Deshabimani, mouthpiece of CPI(M), said the nuns’ protest are an attempt to defame the church and the government.
He however said the party supports the victim but alleged that some communal forces are trying to take over the protest due to hidden agendas.