Mexican Priest in Internet Child-Porn Case Released

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Latin American Herald Tribune
  
21 November 2010   (Sylvia Note:  this story  appears elsewhere with the date of  15 February 2010 as his release)
   
VERACRUZ, Mexico – A Catholic priest arrested last year for his alleged participation in a child-pornography ring operating via the Internet has been released due to lack of evidence in the case, church spokesmen said.

The Rev. Rafael Muñiz Lopez, who was assigned to St. Peter Apostle Church in Xalapa, the capital of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, was released without charges Friday and left the Mexico City jail where he was being held.

A criminal court judge in the Federal District ordered Muñiz’s immediate release “due to insufficient evidence” that the priest was involved in organized crime, Archdiocese of Xalapa public affairs office director Jose Juan Sanchez Jacome said.

The investigation that led to the priest’s arrest began in March 2009, when Mexico City prosecutors discovered an e-mail containing images of sex acts involving minors.

The Federal District prosecutor’s office arrested seven suspects on April 17, 2009.

Muñiz and his brother, Francisco Javier, were identified as suspected members of the Internet child-pornography ring.

On a Web page link included in the e-mail investigators noted “scenes of explicit sex between adults and girls and boys from 0 to 10 years old,” the prosecutor’s office said at the time.

Police tracked the Web site to Luis Alejandro Vergara, at whose Mexico City home they found a large amount of child pornography.

Vergara, who confessed to rape and sexual abuse, was an employee of Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretariat.

Information on Vergara’s computer led police to six other individuals in five different Mexican states, including the Rev. Muñiz and his brother.

Francisco Javier Muñiz Lopez was released a few days after his arrest.

Five of the other suspects in the case are still being held by authorities.

Father Muñiz is happy to be free and to have proven his innocence, but the case took a tremendous physical, emotional and psychological toll, Sanchez Jacome said.

The church spokesman thanked the Catholic community and all those who believed in Father Muñiz’s innocence, as well as local officials who provided legal assistance.

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Parishioners Support Mexican Priest Accused in Kiddie-Porn Case

Latin American Herald Tribune
 
Caraca, 21 November 2010
   
VERACRUZ, MEXICO – Scores of people demonstrated Friday in Xalapa, capital of the Gulf coast state of Veracruz, to demand the release of a Catholic priest jailed for his alleged participation in a child-pornography ring operating via the Internet.

The demonstrators – who numbered some 200, according to organizers – came out in support of the Rev. Rafael Muñiz Lopez, pastor of St. Peter Apostle Church, who was arrested Wednesday by Mexico City authorities along with six other accused pederasts.

“Father Rafael is not alone,” read a giant banner carried by demonstrators at the head of the march, which drew people of all ages.

Children held up various posters in support of the priest, while adults sang religious songs and prayed for the pastor. Prior to the march, the demonstrators attended a special intentions Mass at St. Peter Apostle for Muñiz.

The leaders of the protest were later received by the Veracruz state government’s consultant on religious matters, Luis Carbonell Landa, who pledged to ask Mexico City authorities to grant Muñiz a fair trial.

The investigation that led to the priest’s arrest began last month when Mexico City prosecutors discovered an e-mail containing images of sex acts involving minors.

On a Web page linked with the e-mail investigators noted “scenes of explicit sex between adults and girls and boys from 0 to 10 years old,” the DA’s office said.

Police tracked the Web site to Luis Alejandro Vergara, 32, at whose Mexico City home they found a large amount of child pornography.

Vergara, who confessed to rape and sexual abuse, was an employee of Mexico’s foreign ministry, which said it would fully cooperate with the investigation.

Information on Vergara’s computer led police to six other individuals in five different Mexican states, including the Rev. Muñiz and his brother.

The Catholic hierarchy in Veracruz on Thursday urged people not to rush to judgment about Muñiz but instead to wait until the investigations have been concluded. EFE

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