Bolivian Bishops’ Conference criticizes 5-hour interrogation of fellow bishop in abuse case

Bolivian bishops Bolivian bishops express their support for Bishop Robert Flock on Nov. 13, 2023. | Credit: Bolivian Episcopal Conference (CEB)

During its plenary assembly, the Bolivian Bishops’ Conference expressed its solidarity and closeness to the bishop of San Ignacio de Velasco, Robert Flock, saying he “was a victim of excesses” by prosecutors who interrogated him as witness in a case against a priest.

The bishop was summoned to testify as a witness in the case of a priest of the diocese who is under investigation for alleged rape, “and he found himself in an irregular interrogation of more than five hours, by other prosecutors, as if he were supposedly guilty,” the bishops said in a statement.

The statement was read Nov. 13 by the secretary general of the conference, Bishop Giovani Arana, and the deputy secretary general, Father Diego Pla, at Cardenal Maurer House in Cochabamba, where the 113th Assembly of Bishops is taking place.

The case involves Father Erick Palomino Fuentes, who was suspended from priestly ministry at his own request after pornographic images of him were found on his cellphone, which he had left behind in a taxi, were posted on social media. In addition, he has been accused of raping an adult man.

However, according to Flock, both Palomino and the other person who appears in a video later contacted him to tell him “that there was no rape, that they had had an intimate relationship for some time, and that they had consumed a lot of alcohol.”

Palomino’s home was raided by the police in search of evidence and the accused is at large, wanted by the police. The bishop of San Ignacio de Velasco, who had expressed his willingness to cooperate with the justice system, was summoned to testify as a witness in the case.

The bishops’ conference called the actions of the prosecutors who took statements from Flock a violation of fundamental rights, “because an abuse of authority was committed, regardless of the investigative purpose.”

“Gathered in assembly, we express all our support and closeness to Bishop Robert Flock, who has acted in full compliance and today is a victim of excesses on the part of two prosecutors. Let’s hope that, in all actions by the authorities, the fundamental rights of people and due process are respected,” the Bolivian bishops concluded.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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