Kerala Christian priest faces murder charge

Friday, May 7, 2010

KOCHI - The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Friday filed charge sheet against a Syrian Jacobite Church priest as an accused in the murder of a senior office-bearer of the rival Malankara Orthodox Church.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a senior CBI official told IANS that the priest, Varghese Thekekara, who is the manager of the Angamali diocese of the Syrian Jacobite church, has been named the first accused in the murder of Malankara Varghese in December 2002.

The CBI filed teh charge sheet at the Ernakulam chief judicial magistrate’s court.

“Right now the priest is not in custody. Now the court will look into the matter,” the official said.

On investigation, the CBI’s Chennai unit, which began in September 2007, accused 19 people of the murder and said it was possibly due to the long standing feud between the Malankara Orthodox Church, headquartered in Kottayam, and the Syrian Jacobite Church, which has its headquarters in Ernakulam district.

The century-old feud between the two churches has always been a bother for successive governments in the state and on several occasions in the past feuds between the followers of the two churches have ended in brawls.

Initially, the murder of Varghese was considered a crime conducted by his business rivals, but five long years of probe by the state police’s crime branch yielded nothing conclusive.

Varghese’s widow then approached the Kerala High Court and in September 2007, the court asked the CBI to launch the probe.

The truth came out last month when the CBI arrested Joy Varghese alias Cement Joy, who confessed he had hired the criminals who committed the murder for a large sum of money.

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