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Christian retreat centre: Shocking revelations by probe team

india Updated: May 01, 2007 00:36 IST

The High Court-appointed special police team, which probed the functioning of the Christian retreat centre in Kochi, has filed a preliminary report citing serious charges against the centre. After six-month-long investigation the special team has registered a case against the director Father George Panackkal and eight other office-bearers of the centre. They have been booked under various charges including forceful confinement, causing hurt by poison, cheating and destroying evidences.

The team has also found that during 1996-2006 as many as 900 odd ?mysterious deaths? took place at the centre and on many occasions bodies were disposed without informing the police. The documents were allegedly forged to make it appear natural deaths, the FIR said demanding a detailed probe into these deaths.

Claimed to be the largest Catholic healing centre in the world, the Divine Retreat Centre in Muringoor near Kochi, was in news recently after one of the devotees sent an anonymous letter to the High Court. The letter reportedly carried serious charges including sexual harassment, forceful confinement and murder charges against the centre. Soon the court suo motu constituted a high-level team headed by Inspector General of Police Vincent M Paul to inquire into the charges.

The probe team found that several persons were locked in cells in the name of healing. Persons showing violent signs were often injected with unknown drugs by untrained hands. Besides the FIR filed at Koratty police station, the team has also filed a report before the first class judicial magistrate. The team has also recommended a probe into the foreign funding of the healing centre.

When the police team raided the Divine Centre last year it had created a big furore in the state. The ruling CPM and opposition Congress had condemned it in strongest terms. But the High Court had given a green signal to the probe team. The aggrieved Divine centre had approached the apex court but it upheld the HC order. According to the website of the centre around one crore believers visited the ashram in last ten years.