02/16/2022, 14.45
INDIA
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Bishop and priests arrested in Tamil Nadu get bail

by Nirmala Carvalho

Bishop Samuel Mar Irenios and priests from the Diocese of Pathanamthitta were taken into custody in connection with illegal sand mining by a man who leased land from the diocese. However, unlike the men religion, the main suspect and government officials accused of complicity in the affair were never detained.

Madurai (AsiaNews) – The Madurai bench of the Madras High Court yesterday granted bail to Bishop Samuel Mar Irenios and the five priests from the Syro-Malankara Diocese of Pathanamthitta in Kerala who were arrested in connection with an illegal sand mining operation undertaken by a man who leased land from the diocese in the nearby district of Tirunelveli.

The court noted that the main accused – Manuel George, the man who started the business – had already been granted bail. What is more, the bishop and one of the priests, Fr Jose Chamakalayil, are receiving treatment for cancer.

The land in question is located in the village of Pottal. Local authorities had previously inspected the site and fined Manuel George for illegal activity. For this reason, after receiving a complaint, the High Court ordered a probe last year by the Crime Branch (CB) of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

Preliminary findings suggest that government officials from various departments were also involved in facilitating illegal sand mining.

However, neither Manuel George nor his accomplices were ever arrested, whereas the bishop and five priests were taken into custody after they were summoned for questioning.

In a statement, the Diocese of Pathanamthitta made it clear that it is extraneous to the facts, blaming the man to whom it had leased the land.

The diocese also points out that travel restrictions imposed in the past two years because of the pandemic made it impossible for on-site visits, adding that it has taken legal action against Manuel George.

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