New Delhi, Aug 13: In a major development in the Kerala Church scandal, two of the four Kerala priests have surrendered before a local court on Monday. The two priests are accused of allegedly raping and blackmailing a married woman for several years.

Last week, Father Abraham Varghese and Father Jaise K George had approached the Supreme Court for an anticipatory bail after the Kerala High Court rejected it. The top court had asked them to surrender before the local court. Following the apex court instructions, the priests surrendered before a court in Thirvalla district on Monday.  

The court had earlier asked the state police to file a status report on the probe did so far into the sexual abuse case, involving four priests attached to the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church. (Also read: Husband of Victim Wants Priests Dismissed)

On July 19, the two priests — Father Sony Verghese and Father Jaise K George — were granted protection from arrest by the apex court till it pronounced a verdict on their anticipatory bail pleas. The clergymen had moved the apex court seeking anticipatory bail in the case after their plea was rejected by the Kerala High Court on July 11.

The counsel for victim had alleged that some videos were uploaded by the accused on the Internet and they used the same to blackmail her.

The Crime Branch of the Kerala Police had on July 2 registered a case against Father Varghese and three other priests on the basis of a statement given by the woman belonging to the same church who accused them of sexually assaulting her on many occasions.

The Case:

Four Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church priests, who allegedly sexually assaulted a woman have been slapped with rape charges by the Crime Branch wing of the Kerala Police. Abraham Varghese, Job Mathew of Niranam diocese, Johnson V Mathew of Thumpamon diocese, and Jaise K George of Delhi diocese have been booked for rape based on the victim’s complaint and a probe is underway. The arrests were made after a man from Pathanamthitta district in the state accused five priests of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church of using his wife’s secret confession to blackmail and sexually abuse her, early last month.  The investigation in the case has been handed over to crime branch by state police chief Loknath Behara.

The victim is currently staying with her parents and has provided the Crime Branch with a formal statement alleging rape charges against the priests.

(With PTI inputs)