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International Internet Magazine. Baltic States news & analytics Tuesday, 18.12.2018, 21:30

Priest suspected of human trafficking vehemently denies his guilt

BC, Riga, 09.10.2018.Print version
Priest Pavels Zeila, dean of the Rezekne-Aglona deanery of the Roman Catholic Church in Latvia, who has been released on 5,000 euros bail after being detained on suspicions of human trafficking, has vehemently denied his guilt in an interview with Delfi news portal, cities LETA.

Asked if he has committed the crimes he is accused of, Zeila said: "No, no, no". "For nearly 24 hours I could not comprehend what this arrest meant. For buying and selling people, I did not understand it," Delfi quoted the priest as saying. "Only later it occurred to me what it was about... I have neither bough nor sold anyone," Zeila said.


Zeila said he was glad about the law enforcement authorities' decision to free him on bail as it meant that "something was changing for the better" in his case.


As reported, Zeila has been released on 5,000 euros bail, State Police spokeswoman Simona Gravite told.


She said that the priest's defense lawyers had submitted a request to the police asking to release him on bail. Upon assessing the suspect's heath condition and evidence currently in the process of evaluation, as well as consulting the supervising prosecutor, it was decided to grant the request and release the detained priest on 5,000 euros bail.


According to information, Zeila is staying in Riga for now. His return to Rezekne will depend on his doctors' decision as he might need to remain in medical care for some time.


Zeila had been in custody since end-August.


As reported, in August this year, the police unit for combating trafficking and pimping received information from a nongovernmental organization that several men might have been sexually abusing a defenseless, mentally retarded adult male.


On August 29, investigators in Riga and Rezekne detained three persons, born in 1945, 1955 and 1958. One of them was a clergyman. The law enforcement officers also conducted two searches in Riga and Rezekne and seized various video and photo files to check them for any forbidden content.


Since the victim was abused while being in a defenseless state, a criminal procedure was started over human trafficking in an organized group, which is a criminal offense carrying a jail term of three to 12 years.


A criminal procedure has also been started over sexual abuse of defenseless person in a group. This crime is punishable with a life sentence or a jail term of five to 20 years.


Citing information at its disposal, Latvia’s Delfi news portal reported that the oldest suspect in the sex abuse case is Pavels Zeila. He is the parish priest at Our Lady of Sorrows parish, Rezekne, Dukstigals and Prezma parish, superior of the Vicariate of Latvia and dean of Rezekne deanery, according to information available at Katolis.lv, the website of Latvia’s Roman Catholic Church.

 






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