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Priest arrested in Puerto Rico on sex-abuse charges

Posted on May 14 2014 | IANS

San Juan, May 14 : A Catholic priest was arrested by the FBI and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents for crimes of sexual trafficking and paedophilia, an official said.

Rev. Israel Berrios Berrios, 58, was arrested Tuesday at his residence in Naranjito, a village in the central part of this US commonwealth, Puerto Rican government spokesman Miguel Pereira told Efe.

Berrios, who in the photo of his Facebook profile appears taking the hand of the late Pope John Paul II, had been relieved of his duties by the diocese of Caguas, a city neighbouring San Juan, while he was being investigated.

This was the first arrest of a priest by the US federal authorities in Puerto Rico, with local authorities expected to confirm the charge, which would make Berrios the second priest charged with sex crimes on the island.

The first priest to be accused by Puerto Rican authorities is the former president of the Ecclesiastical Court of Arecibo Diocese, Rev. Edwin Mercado Viera, scheduled to appear at a preliminary hearing May 30.

Berrios, who could be sentenced to life in prison if found guilty, previously worked in the parishes of San Jose in Aibonito and San Andres Apostol in Barranquitas, both in central Puerto Rico.

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