news 27 Mar 13

Serbian Church Files Charges Over Sex Abuse Claims

In the wake of fresh accusations against Bishop Pahomije for sex abuse, his diocese is striking back with charges against the employee who accused him.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

The Vranje diocese of the Serbian Orthodox Church filed charges on Tuesday against its former warehousman, known only as N.S., for embezzlement and abuse of office.

The lawsuit comes after the 24-year-old told the local Vranjske Novine last Thursday that the bishop had been sexually abusing him for years.

He said that Pahomije used to come to his room every night. "Each night at the monastery was like hell for me," he told the paper.

"He was telling me that there was nothing wrong in what he had been doing," the man said, after telling the same account to the local police.

Following the accusations, Bishop Pahomije said that he was ready to respond to any call from the police or prosecution regarding the case. "It is my duty, and I will not escape from it," he said.

In 2003, the bishop was charged with sex abuse offences and was summoned to appear before a closed court in Vranje. The charges were brought on behalf of four teenagers, the youngest aged 13.

Four years later, following a lengthy transfer of the trial from Vranje to Nis, Pahomije was found not guilty. The verdict was subsequently upheld by a higher court, the Nis District Court.

Serbia’s Supreme Court eventually ruled that the two verdicts clearing the bishop were unlawful, but the court was unable to order a retrial because of double-jeopardy laws.

Bishop Pahomije remains in office. He has always maintained his innocence, claiming that he has been the victim of what he describes as anti-patriotic and anti-clerical plots.

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