Fugitive priest sent home to face sex abuse charges

LOS ANGELES — A Catholic priest on the run for more than 25 years has been arrested in Morocco and extradited to the United States to face charges that he sexually assaulted a young boy in the 1990s, federal prosecutors in New Mexico said Friday.

Arthur Perrault, now 80 years old, stands accused of aggravated sexual abuse of a minor under the age of 12 on several occasions in 1991 and 1992, while he served as a military chaplain at Kirtland Air Force base outside Albuquerque.

The boy was assaulted both at the base and at Santa Fe National Cemetery, US prosecutor John Anderson told reporters.

“The indictment alleges a profound breach of trust by an individual who was widely perceived as a mentor to young people and a respected figure in the community,” Anderson said in a statement handed out by the Justice Department.

The priest vanished in 1992, shortly before lawsuits were filed against the Archdiocese of Santa Fe over Perrault’s alleged abuse of seven children in his parish, Anderson said.

According to investigators, Perrault first fled to Canada and then Morocco, where the Federal Bureau of Investigation agents eventually tracked him down last year. He was arrested in October 2017.

If convicted of the charges covered in the indictment, unsealed on Friday, Perrault could face up to life in prison.

Local media reported that Perrault had worked as an English teacher in Morocco, notably at the American Language Centre in Tangier.

Anderson said he was extradited to the United States on Thursday.

“Perrault will finally appear in an American courtroom to answer for the charges against him,” said FBI special agent James Langenberg, who is in charge of the investigation. He thanked Morocco for its cooperation.

“But this case is not over. The FBI is seeking information from individuals who may have additional information about Perrault’s contacts with minors over the years,” Langenberg added.

Authorities are concerned that the priest, who worked in New Mexico from 1973 to 1992, may have abused many others.

The indictment is the latest development in the roiling abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church, with shocking revelations of endemic abuse in Australia, Chile and the United States. — AFP

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Indian bishop arrested for rape of nun

NEW DELHI — An Indian bishop accused by a nun of raping her was arrested Friday, in a high-profile abuse case that had triggered angry protests by clergy over police inaction, Press Trust of India reported.

Bishop Franco Mulakkal was arrested a day after Pope Francis relieved him from duty over the scandal, according to PTI who quoted local police official Vijay Sakhare.

The nun, who has not been named, first accused Mulakkal in late June of raping her 13 times between 2014 and 2016.

But police in the southern state of Kerala, home to India’s largest Christian population, did not formally question him until September.

The lack of action provoked outrage, as five nuns — in a rare show of dissent within the Indian Church — and dozens of supporters staged days of protests.

Pope Francis relieved Mulakkal from duty on Thursday and appointed another bishop in his stead.

Mulakkal, who has rejected the accusations, had written to the pontiff requesting he be temporarily relieved of duties while the investigation was underway.

The alleged victim has also approached the Vatican representative in India to press her case.

Her letter, leaked to Indian media, said Mulakkal was “using political and money power to bury the case”.

Mulakkal has called the whole scandal a conspiracy by those against the Church, and has won backing from his congregation at the Missionaries of Jesus Church.

In July, two priests were arrested for allegedly raping and blackmailing a woman for over 20 years in Kerala.

Sexual abuse by clergymen and the failure of senior Church officials to take action has been one of the biggest scandals facing the Catholic Church in recent years in several countries. — AFP

Archbishop seeks dismissal of cover-up charges

SANTIAGO — Attorneys for Chile’s most senior cleric said on Friday they will ask a judge to drop charges he covered up sexual abuse amid a scandal that has rocked the Chilean Roman Catholic Church and prompted a major civil investigation.

The ongoing church sex abuse scandal in the Andean nation has prompted Pope Francis to open an investigation that has led to the resignations of several bishops and priests.

Lawyers for Ricardo Ezzati, the archbishop of Santiago, have requested more time to prepare their case after Ezzati was originally due to be questioned by a civil prosecutor last month.

Ezzati’s defence team, which includes lawyer Hugo Rivera, has determined that the archbishop’s case does not qualify as a “cover-up,” Rivera said on Friday.

“After a long review of the background we are totally and absolutely convinced that this case does not meet the requirements established by law,” Rivera said.

All of Chile’s 34 bishops offered to resign en masse in May after attending a meeting with the pope over allegations of a cover-up.

With the latest resignations, the pope has removed the leadership of about 20 per cent of the Latin American country’s dioceses. — Reuters

Trump outburst over Kavanaugh’s accuser sparks hashtag trend

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s outburst demanding to know why a university academic accusing his Supreme Court nominee of sexual assault in the 1980s failed to come forward sooner, saw a new #MeToo era hashtag storm the internet Friday.

#WhyIDidntReport was the top trending conversation starter on Twitter in the United States, as people, mostly women, vented outrage over past sexual transgressions and to stand in solidarity with Christine Blasey Ford, the Californian professor who took decades to accuse Brett Kavanaugh of groping her when they were teens.

By mid-afternoon East Coast time, tens of thousands of tweets had been posted to the microblogging platform as users explained why they had not reported occasions on which they too had been sexually assaulted in the past.

“I was sexually assaulted twice. Once when I was a teenager. I never filed a police report and it took me 30 years to tell my parents,” tweeted actress Alyssa Milano.

“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents,” Trump tweeted. — AFP

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Nightmare over for Aussie filmmaker, says family

MELBOURNE — The family of an Australian filmmaker pardoned by Cambodia after being jailed on espionage charges said it was happy the “nightmare” came to an end, while the Australian foreign minister thanked the government in Phnom Penh for his release.

James Ricketson, 69, was freed from Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison on Friday after a court sentenced him last month to six years in jail for damaging the country’s reputation.

He was arrested in June last year after being photographed flying a drone above a rally organised by the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party before local elections.

“We are relieved and excited about this news,” Ricketson’s son, Jesse, said.

“It still hasn’t really sunk in. It has been a really tough 16 months and I’m just kind of in shock right now. We would like to offer our hugest gratitude to King Norodom Sihamoni for showing us compassion and bringing this nightmare to an end.”

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne also thanked her Cambodian counterpart for the release.

“This ends a distressing time for Ricketson and his family,” Payne said.

Jesse said the family has been
concerned about his father’s health as he approaches 70.

“We’re not sure how long he could have continued to endure the conditions of the notorious Prey Sar prison,” he said.

He added the family expected Ricketson in Australia “very soon”, probably today.

The filmmaker has been visiting Cambodia for more than 20 years, producing documentaries about the country and its people.

His arrest came amid a wider crackdown on freedom of expression by Hun Sen’s government and his Cambodian People’s Party. The party in July claimed victory following a controversial general election which was largely unopposed.

Rights groups said the polls were neither free nor fair given the absence of a significant challenger to Hun Sen, who has ruled for 33 years.

Payne said yesterday that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would continue to provide Ricketson with consular assistance, but due to “privacy considerations” would not make any further statements on his release.
— Reuters

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US fugitive nabbed by Taiwan cops to be deported

TAIPEI — A Texas man who has played a central role in the US debate over 3D-printed weapons and is wanted for having sex with a 16-year-old was arrested in Taiwan on Friday, Taiwanese authorities said.

Cody Wilson advocates 3D-printed weapons as a bulwark against gun control and has caused panic by publishing firearm blueprints online. Critics warn these weapons give criminals access to untraceable firearms.

Taiwan’s National Immigration Agency said in a statement that Wilson was caught by the police on Friday and handed over to immigration authorities to process his deportation.

Austin Police Department announced on Wednesday the 30-year-old is wanted for sexual assault, saying he was in Taiwan and missed a flight back to the United States.

“The foreigner came legally to Taiwan visa-free but he no longer has a valid passport … the agency will discuss with the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) to arrange the return to his country soon,” the Taiwan Immigration Agency statement read.

AIT is the de facto US embassy in Taiwan as Washington officially recognises Beijing over Taipei.

According to Taiwanese authorities, Wilson arrived on the island on Sept 6 and attempted to rent an apartment in Taipei but was yet to move in.

The real estate company that he signed a contract with earlier this month contacted the authorities after watching news about his sexual assault case on TV, police said.

The US investigation into Wilson began after a counsellor to whom the victim had spoken notified police “that a juvenile female under the age of 17 had reported having sexual contact with a 30-year-old male”.

The victim met Wilson on sugardaddymeet.com, a website that bills itself as the “Best Sugar Daddy Dating Site for Attractive Women and Wealthy Men Seeking Mutually Beneficial Relationships”.

Wilson and the 16-year-old had sex at a hotel, and he paid her US$500 (RM2,000), according to Austin police.

Before leaving the United States, Wilson was informed by a friend of the victim that she had spoken to police, they said.

Wilson published downloadable gun blueprints on his website after reaching a deal with President Donald Trump’s administration in June that ended a multi-year effort by the federal government to block him.

But multiple states filed a joint lawsuit claiming Wilson endangered public safety through his actions, and a federal judge issued a temporary order prohibiting the distribution of the digital blueprints.

Wilson, who subscribes to an anarchist philosophy that the free exchange of ideas on the Internet is a check on government, then said he interpreted the ruling as only barring the free online distribution of the blueprints, and began offering the files for sale. — AFP

S’pore family reels from autistic son’s lewd video

SINGAPORE — A Facebook post last weekend, about a mother’s heartbreak at discovering online videos of her autistic son masturbating in a train, has prompted calls for greater understanding of people with disabilities and their families.

In the video, the man in his early 20s touches his private parts while looking at a girl on the train.

The family was shocked when they learnt last weekend that the video had gone “viral”.

In a Facebook post on Sept 16, which was shared more than 850 times before it was taken down on Friday night, the man’s aunt hit out at the person who posted the video.

“You have just hurt the heart of a mother. This society would be a better place if we could stop judging and start caring, stop seeking to be understood and start trying to understand,” she said.

The aunt had tried to contact her sister-in-law on learning about the video, but she was “too heartbroken to speak”.

She added family members were greatly saddened and angered that the person took the video and posted it online.

Her nephew, who has to travel “long hours” to get to his workplace, has an “above-average memory” and had attended a mainstream secondary school, said the aunt.

When contacted, the woman declined to comment further and requested not to be identified.

Her post drew widespread sympathy and encouragement from online users with family members who have autism, as well as MP Denise Phua, who has championed the rights of the special-needs community.

Organisations that work with people with autism and intellectual disabilities advised individuals to refrain from taking videos and posting them online should they encounter those with special needs exhibiting sexual behaviour in public.

The key guiding principle is to help keep everyone safe and direct the special-needs person to appropriate help, such as the caregiver or authorities, said Autism Resource Centre principal autism consultant Dr Lam Chee Meng.

“It is best to report to the public transport staff, especially if you are not sure if the person has special needs,” he said.

“What is not safe and (is) inappropriate to do is to video the act and circulate it on social media. If a member of the public takes a video, it should be for the purpose of handing it to the authorities,” he said.
— Today

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China shuts thousands of websites in clean-up campaign

SHANGHAI — China has shut down more than 4,000 websites and online accounts in a three-month campaign against “harmful” online information, the official Xinhua news agency said yesterday, citing the country’s illegal publication watchdog.

China keeps the Internet under tight control and has been cracking down on a range of illegal online activities including pornography, gambling, religious proselytising and even “spreading rumours”.

In a campaign that started in May, the authorities tackled 120 violations and ordered 230 firms to rectify irregularities. More than 147,000 pieces of harmful information were removed by the end of last month, according to China’s National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications.

Xinhua said the campaign targeted content in online fiction that spread improper values, vulgarity and obscenity, as well as content that infringed on copyright.

Authorities announced last week that they had busted a live-streaming pornography platform hosted in Cambodia and said to have more than 3.5 million registered users.
— Reuters

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Three babies, adults stabbed at NY daycare

NEW YORK — A female worker stabbed three babies, two of whom are less than a month old, at a home-based daycare centre in New York City on Friday before slashing her own wrists and being taken into custody, police said.

The unidentified woman, age 52, who also stabbed two adults in the predawn incident in the borough of Queens, was in stable condition, Juanita Holmes, assistant chief of patrol for the New York City Police Department, said at a news conference.

Police did not have any details on a possible motive.

Of the babies stabbed, two were girls and one a boy, police said. All three were hospitalised and listed in serious but stable condition. Prosecutors said they were aged 13 days, 22 days and 33 days.

The woman also stabbed a 31-year-old man, believed to be the father of one of the children, and a woman at the overnight nursery in Flushing, known as Mei Xin Care. A bloody kitchen knife and meat cleaver were found at the scene, police said.

Prosecutors said the woman who was stabbed is 63.

“We pray that all of the victims will be fine and will survive these injuries. We are hoping these young babies — small and so very fragile — are also strong enough to overcome this horrible act of senseless violence,” Queens district attorney Richard Brown said in a statement.

Police said nine children and several parents were at the private home when the attack occurred.

Both of the adults who were stabbed live at the home, a police spokesman said, adding that the assailant worked at the nursery but did not live there.

Brown said the alleged attacker was in custody at a nearby hospital undergoing a psychiatric evaluation as well as treatment for what appeared to be self-inflicted wounds. — Reuters

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Search for kin of bodies found in container

GUADALAJARA — Dozens of people from across Mexico who are searching for missing relatives this week journeyed to the city of Guadalajara, where a scandal has erupted over a truck full of unidentified bodies that overflowed local morgues.

A wave of violence linked to powerful drug cartels has sent the number of missing persons in the country soaring to more than 36,000, and families of the “disappeared” often search fruitlessly for them for months or years.

Guadalajara, the country’s second-largest city, has been hit particularly hard by the violence as home base to the brutal Jalisco New Generation Cartel.

It emerged over the weekend that the city’s morgues are so full, authorities decided to rent a refrigerated trailer to hold the bodies of 278 murder victims.

The truck caused outrage when the authorities parked it in a series of impoverished neighbourhoods on the outskirts of the city. Residents protested over the smell, flies and risk to public health.

Officials then moved it to a prosecution storage facility in the city centre. The governor has fired the state prosecutor and coroner over the debacle.

The gruesome affair drew some 100 people from across the country to the western city, where they demanded to know if their loved ones were among the bodies.

“When I heard this awful news, I said, we have to go,” said Yadira Gonzalez, 36, who has been searching for her missing brother Juan for 12 years, and belongs to a group for people with missing relatives in the central city of Queretaro.

They drove some five hours to picket outside the Institute of Forensic Sciences for Jalisco state, of which Guadalajara is the capital, demanding to know whether their loved ones were in the truck.

News media have broadcast footage of the open trailer of the truck, with piles of bodies in black bags and a man in white boots stepping on the bags.

The number of murder victims in Mexico has exploded in recent years.

Since the government deployed the army to fight the country’s powerful drug cartels in 2006, Mexico has been hit by a wave of violence that has resulted in more than 200,000 murders.

Last year, the country registered a record 28,702 homicides. — AFP

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