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Friday, 23 April 2010

Family won't drop Nebbi Catholic priest rape case

Family won't drop Nebbi priest rape case

Thursday, 22nd April, 2010

By Frank Mugabi

THE parents of the girl allegedly defiled by an HIV-positive Catholic priest in Nebbi have rejected a Police request to drop the charges, insisting the law must take its course.

Santo Onyai, the father of the 14-year-old girl, said Pakwach Police yesterday called him to make a statement withdrawing the case, but he had declined to do so.

“The Police told me to make an additional statement withdrawing the case but I refused because that can only be made after we have reached a compromise, which we have not,” Onyai said.

The Rev. Fr. Santos Constatino Wapokura was released on Wednesday after a day in Police detention. The priest said the accusations are a ploy to taint his image.

Wapokura, the parish priest of Pakwach, has twice been in and out of Police cells over sexually assaulting the girl, who was serving in the church.

He was first arrested last week but was released shortly after on Police bond under unclear circumstances, which the Police said they were investigating. He was again arrested on Monday, transferred to Nebbi Central Police Station, before being released once more reportedly on the instructions of the resident state attorney, Innocent Obale.

Obale said the complainants wanted to settle the matter out of court. But Onyai said his family want the priest to face the court and instead blamed government officials of dragging their feet.

“We all want the case to proceed in court but the Police and court people are not helping us,” he said. He called for the intervention of higher authorities.

On Tuesday, the Nebbi criminal investigations officer, Henry Mulindwa, told The New Vision that they had preferred charges of aggravated defilement against the priest because he was tested and found to be HIV-positive.

A person convicted of aggravated defilement is liable to a death sentence.
In Kampala, the head of the child and family protection unit, Florence Kilabila, yesterday said the Police did not condone the priest’s release. “I don’t like the claims that the case is going to be settled out of court. There is still room for us to look into it.”

The regional crime chief, she said, had been ordered to ensure justice is done. “The matter will be handled at a higher level,” she added. She said the release of the priest was the decision of the state attorney and should not be blamed on the Police.

The Nebbi case adds to the list of accusations of sexual impropriety across the globe brought against Catholic priests, who swear the oath of celibacy.

Additional reporting by Herbert Ssempogo


New vision, 22-April-2010

Writes Leo Odera Omolo

A senior Catholic priest based in Pakwach town in Nebbi district has been arrested by the Police on allegations of defiling a 14-year-old girl, who served in the church.

The district criminal investigations officer, Henry Mulindwa, said the Rev. Fr. Santos ConstatinoWapokura was first arrested last week in Pakwach when the girl’s parents registered a complaint.

Mulindwa said another 14-year-old girl had also reported to the Police, saying the priest also forced her into sex early last year.

Wapokura, 45, the parish priest for Pakwach, is also HIV-positive, Mulindwa said.

Therefore, the Police upgraded his case from simple to aggravated defilement.
He was, however, shortly released on bond under unclear circumstances, which the district Police headquarters in Nebbi are investigating.

“This is a capital offence. When I heard about it, I called for the file and ordered the priest’s re-arrest on Monday,” Mulindwa said. Mulindwa explained that the victim was a Primary Five pupil.

The girl told the Police that Wapokura would often ask her to go to his house, where he would follow her and force her into sex.

On another occasion, the girl narrated, she was at the priest’s home with other visitors. Father Wapokura reportedly sent away the other people and forced the girl into sex.

Wapokura, who is detained at Nebbi Central Police Station, denies the allegations, which he described as a ploy by his enemies to tarnish his name.
Wapokura was at the helm of celebrations to mark the Centenary of the Catholic faith in northern Uganda held in Pakwach on March 20.

The Police said his file had been forwarded to the resident state attorney for sanctioning, after which he will appear before court. Another Catholic priest was arrested and charged with defilement in Gulu recently.

The cases add to the long list of accusations of sexual misconduct by Catholic priests, which have rocked the Church lately. In America, the Church has paid millions of dollars to victims.

Pope Benedict has also been accused of trying to cover up the crimes in an attempt to preserve the image of the church, which forbids its priests from marrying.

Activists in Britain are considering arresting the Pope when he travels to London later this year.

Police Free Priest Nabbed Over Defilement

Frank Mugabi

The New vision, 21 April 2010

Kampala — The Catholic priest who had been arrested for allegedly defiling a 14-year-old girl in Pakwach, Nebbi district, has been released amid protests from the victim's parents.

The Police said yesterday they freed the Rev. Fr. Santos Constatino Wapokura, the parish priest for Pakwach, on the instructions of the resident state attorney, Innocent Obale.

The priest was arrested on Monday on allegations of sexually assaulting a girl who previous served in the church. But the priest denies the allegations, saying they are a ploy by his enemies to tarnish his image.

The northwestern regional Police commander, Patrick Otika-Akubu, said they had got instructions from the attorney to release the priest.

"We had evidence but the State Attorney has written back to us saying we release the suspect because the parties have opted to settle the matter outside court," Akubu said, adding that he was surprised by the decision.

However, efforts to get a comment from the Obale proved futile as he referred the writer to the Police.

Santo Onyai, the victim's father, denied having written any additional statement withdrawing the case.

He disclosed that although the priest had requested to have private negotiations with the family on the matter, they had not reached a compromise.

"He has been asking for forgiveness but right now we are much aggrieved as a family because he has done a lot of damage to our daughter," Onyai said.

He said the girl, whom he has withdrawn from school not to "waste money", occasionally, complains of abdominal pain. The victim was a Primary Five pupil.

Onyai complained that they were not being accorded proper justice.

"The Police have not taken enough control of this case. Whenever we get the priest arrested, he is released," Onyai said.

Wapokura was first arrested last week but was released shortly after on Police bond under unclear circumstances, which the Police is investigating.

Onyai said they had taken the victim for an HIV test and were expecting the results today.

The district criminal investigations officer, Henry Mulindwa, told The New Vision that they wanted the priest charged for aggravated defilement because he is HIV-positive. A person convicted for aggravated defilement faces a death sentence.

The girl's father also expressed worry that he did not have enough money to follow up the case.

Meanwhile, the regional Police commander said they were investigating other complaints against the priest from other accusers.