Latin America & Caribbean

Argentine priest Julio Grassi jailed over sexual abuse

Julio Cesar Grassi, June 2009 Image copyright AP
Image caption Grassi described the accusations against him were as a cross he had to carry

A prominent Roman Catholic priest in Argentina has been jailed, four years after being convicted of sexually abusing a teenage boy.

A court in Buenos Aires province rejected an appeal by Father Julio Cesar Grassi, who has been sentenced to 15 years in jail, to remain under house arrest.

He was convicted in 2009 of abusing the boy at his "Happy Children" foundation.

He insists he is innocent and says the case is based on false evidence.

"In my life, all I have done was to help the children in need," he said at the criminal court in the city of Moron.

"The prosecutors have lied and set up a case against me."

'Out of control'

Prosecutor Alejandro Varela argued that there was a risk that the priest would escape if he was not detained.

Three courts in Argentina had already confirmed his 2009 conviction, before the Supreme Court of Buenos Aires province ratified the 15-year prison sentence last week.

"To leave Grassi free is almost like colluding with his crime," said Mr Varela.

After a hearing which ended with an emotional plea by Father Grassi, the criminal court in Moron unanimously ordered his "immediate detention".

He was taken to a nearby jail.

"I am in peace, I believe in God," Father Grassi said.

A lawyer for the prosecution, Juan Pablo Gallego, described him as "a convicted paedophile, who is out of control".

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