Priest suspected of sexual abuse will be kept in custody

A Roman Catholic priest suspected of sexual abuse of a mentally disabled man and involvement in a human trafficking ring will continue to be kept in custody while investigations continue, a court ruled September 21.

The Riga Regional Court decided not to release Rezekne-Aglona diocesan priest Pavels Zeila, despite a legal bid to win his release. He is currently in hospital receiving treatment for a medical condition after being arrested on August 31, reported LTV.

As previously reported by LSM, Zeila was arrested along with two other individuals on suspicion of operating a human trafficking ring for purposes of sexual exploitation, with the priest named by police as the end abuser of a mentally disabled adult.

Zeila is parish priest at Our Lady of Sorrows parish, Rezekne, Dukstigals and Prezma parish, superior of the Vicariate of Latvia and dean of Rezekne deanery. He was born in 1946 and ordained in 1977. He denies his guilt but the seriousness of the allegations against him has warranted his detention, in the view of the police.

Some of priest's parishioners have held protests to express their support for him and their belief in his innocence, with some - including figures in politics - suggesting his arrest is part of a grand conspiracy, though they have not provided any evidence substantiating this claim.

Meanwhile the alleged victim, who has remained anonymous for obvious reasons, is reported to be receiving help from professionals on a rehabilitation course for victims of human trafficking.

If found guilty of involvement in human trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation, the penalty is imprisonment for 3 to 12 years. 

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