Europe

Sexual abuse charges dropped against Spain priests

A person believed to be one of the suspects sits with their head covered in the back of a police car in Granada, Spain, 24 November Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Several suspects were arrested in November. This photo shows one of them with their head covered in the back of a police car in Granada

A court in the southern Spanish city of Granada has dropped charges against nine out of 10 Catholic priests accused of sexually abusing an altar boy.

The charges - which included "sexual abuse with penetration, exhibitionism and concealing evidence" - were dropped because the crimes fell within the statute of limitations.

Charges were also dropped against two laymen accused in the case.

Pope Francis had intervened in the case, urging an investigation.

Last November, the pontiff had also telephoned the alleged victim, now aged 24, to offer his apologies.

The abuse is alleged to have taken place between 2004 and 2007.

The court in Granada said 11 out of 12 suspects would not be charged because too much time had passed between the alleged crimes and the complaints being made.

The lawyer for the main accuser said his client had been unable to report the crime until he had moved out of Granada.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Last November, the Archbishop of Granada, Francisco Javier Martinez, and fellow priests prostrated themselves at the altar of Granada's cathedral to seek pardon for abuse within the Church

Following the Pope's call to the alleged victim, the Archbishop of Granada, Francisco Javier Martinez, and fellow priests prostrated themselves in front of the altar of Granada's cathedral to seek pardon for sexual abuse in the Church.

Many survivors of abuse by priests are angry at what they see as the Vatican's failure to punish senior officials who have been accused of covering up scandals.

The pontiff has pledged zero tolerance of child sex abuse.

In July, Pope Francis begged forgiveness from the victims of sexual abuse by priests, and condemned the Church's "complicity" in hiding the "grave crimes" committed by clerics.

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