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Argentina court acquits nuns in deaf children sex abuse case

By AFP

October 19, 2023 09:58 AM


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Two nuns and seven other female employees of an Argentine institute for deaf children were acquitted by a court Wednesday of sexual abuse and rape.

The ruling, broadcast on public television, concluded a trial of two-and-a-half years in a case that has shocked the home country of Pope Francis.

Two priests in charge of children at the Antonio Provolo center -- Horacio Corbacho and Nicola Corradi --  have been convicted and handed sentences of more than 40 years each for sexual abuse, including rape, of some 20 minors.

The victims were aged four to 17 when the crimes were committed from 2004 to the closure of the institute in 2016.

The institution's gardener, Armando Gomez, has also been jailed for 18 years for sexual abuse, and a former altar boy pleaded guilty to the sexual abuse of five children.

Several staff were taken into custody after allegations of abuse first surfaced in 2016, and the institute was shut down.

The latest case focused on the alleged abuse of 11 of the children.

In the dock were Japanese nun Kumiko Kosaka and Paraguayan Asuncion Martinez, as well as a former cook, a psychologist, a legal representative and school director, and three other employees.

Kosaka stood accused of aggravated sexual abuse and covering up the crimes, and Martinez of "corruption of minors," among other alleged offenses.

A panel of three judges on Wednesday acquitted Kosaka, Martinez, and all seven others.

Ariel Lizarraga, father of one of the accusers, described the outcome as "total injustice."

"There were already convictions. The facts happened," he told AFP, accusing the Catholic Church of conspiring to "clean up the stain" of abuse allegations that has rocked the institution worldwide in recent years.

Founded in 1995, the Provolo Institute offered free education to children of modest origins who had hearing and speech difficulties, with on-site boarding during the school week.

Prosecutors had sought sentences of 25 and 10 years respectively for the nuns, 18 for the legal representative, Graciela, Pascual and lesser sentences for the rest.

Defence lawyers said they would appeal the ruling.


AFP


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