Buenos Aires (AFP)
Two nuns and seven other employees of an Argentine institute for deaf children were tried on Monday in a sexual abuse case that shocked Pope Francis’ home country.
Two priests in charge of children at the center were jailed for more than 40 years each in November 2019 for sexual abuse, including rape, of around 20 minors.
This is the second trial in the crime case committed between 2004 and 2016 at the Provolo Institute in Mendoza, some 1,000 kilometers west of Buenos Aires.
The victims were then between 4 and 17 years old.
Several school staff were taken into custody after abuse allegations first surfaced in 2016, and the institute was shut down.
The first judges were Argentine priest Horacio Corbacho, who was sentenced to 45 years in prison, and Italian Nicola Corradi, who was sentenced to 42 years in prison.
Institutional gardener Armando Gomez was jailed for 18 years for sexual abuse, and a former altar boy, now in his 50s, was sentenced to ten years after pleading guilty to sexual abuse in five children.
The main defendant in the dock this time is Japanese nun Kumiko Kosaka, 46, accused of aggravated sexual abuse and cover-up.
Another nun, Paraguayan Asuncion Martinez, 53, is accused of “corruption of minors” concealing the crimes, alongside the legal representative of the center, a psychologist, a cook and four directors of the institute.
“Without the nuns who took care of the children, the social worker, the directors, without all this structure, none of this would have been possible. Corbacho and Corradi were not alone, ”said Erica Labeguerie, sister of Claudia, victim of the center.
Ariel Lizarraga, father of another victim, Daiana, 29, said: “They covered everything up, preventing them (the children) from learning sign language so that it wouldn’t come out. “
Amid the coronavirus epidemic, the trial opened in Mendoza without the presence of journalists.
None of the defendants were in court, but participated via video transmission, court sources said.
Kosaka is under house arrest, the only one in pre-trial detention.
The trial is expected to last around six months and around 100 witnesses are expected to testify.
“The families are waiting,” said Labéguerie. “It’s as if a door was open that allows many memories, infinite sadness because nothing is going to give us back everything that was stolen from us. “
Founded in 1995, the Provolo Institute offered free education to children of humble origins who had hearing and speech problems, with on-site boarding during the school week.
The Catholic Church has been rocked by a series of child sexual abuse scandals in recent years; in the United States, Europe, Latin America and Australia.
© 2021 AFP