March 9, 2019

Riga (AFP) – A Latvian Catholic priest and two other people have been charged with human trafficking and sexual abuse of a male teenager with learning difficulties, local media reported Friday, citing justice authorities.

Laura Majevska, a spokeswoman for Latvia’s prosecutor general confirmed the charges against three suspects, although she refused to reveal their identities.

Citing unnamed sources, the Baltic News Service named one of the accused as Pavels Zeila (photo not available), a 73-year-old priest, who had served in a diocese in eastern Latvia.

“The abuser did horrible things to me while talking to me in a sweet voice: ‘What a cute boy!’,” the alleged victim told Latvian public broadcaster LTV in an interview aired before the indictment.

“Only later I was told he is a priest,” the vulnerable young man said, in the broadcast to a national audience.

Police arrested Zeila on suspicion of abuse in September, but he has since been released on bail.

Describing the details of the allegations at the time of the arrest, Armands Lubarts, chief of a police task force on human trafficking and pimping, told media that “one of the suspects ‘delivered’ the defenceless victim for a fee.

“The church representative, who was the end buyer, paid the fee and then committed violent sexual crimes against the victim,” Lubarts added.

Neither Zeila nor his lawyers have commented on the charges, which come as the Catholic Church has vowed to fight child abuse within its ranks.