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Serbian Orthodox Church priest Branislav Peranovic who is suspected of killing a drug addict in his care is facing a lengthy prison sentence.
Higher Court in the eastern Serbian town of Sabac ruled on Wednesday afternoon a one-month detention to Branislav Peranovic suspected to have caused the death of Nebojsa Zarubac, a 39-year-old man at the church-run rehabilitation centre, ‘Sretenje,’ in the village of Jadranska Lesnica.
The questioning of the priest lasted around three and a half hours and the accused presented his view of the case and center's operation, the judge said.
"He is suspected of murder resulting from a great number of strikes with a wooden stick and fist punches, due to which Zarubac passed out and choked to death on gastric juice," the judge said.
For this crime, the suspect is facing between five and 15 years in prison.
The centre was treating mostly young men with serious drug problems. The patients’ families paid for the service according to their abilities.
The Serbian Orthodox Church has strongly condemned the incident and announced a comprehensive investigation into the case.
Bishop of Sabac, Lavrentije, has temporarily banned Peranovic form practicing priesthood because of "grounded suspicion that priest Peranovic has committed murder."
Peranovic came under the spotlight in 2009 when TV footage revealed the brutal methods he used to treat drug addicts in the church-run camp at Crna Reka.
The recording showed patients being assaulted with shovels and punched in the face.
The Serbian Orthodox Church condemned his behaviour at the time. The then bishop in charge of the Raska Diocese dismissed Peranovic from his managerial post and closed the rehab centre at the Crna Reka monastery.
Peranovic was taken to court and the verdict is still pending.
In the meantime, Peranovic voluntarily left the monastery of Crna Reka and in 2010 became the head of the Sretenje centre for addiction treatment.
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