Fr Shay Cullen, the Columban priest and human rights campaigner, is again battling to clear his name after the Philippines Justice Department ordered the reopening of a rape charge against him, reports The Tablet.
    Fr Cullen is accused of abusing a seven-year-old girl in January 1998 while she was in the care of the Preda Children's Centre in Olongapo City, founded by Fr Cullen in 1974 and situated 140 km north of Manila. The case has been dismissed by the Justice Department on two previous occasions, and the Columban order has expressed bewilderment as to why it has been revived.
    A Nobel Peace Prize nominee for 2001 and recipient of a German human rights award from the city of Weimar for 2000, Fr Cullen says that he is being framed by a paedophile support group in Olongapo as "a backlash against our campaign to bring child sex abusers to justice". The group has filed more than 50 legal harassment cases over the past two years against Fr Cullen and his co-workers. Of these, 32 have been dismissed by the Justice Department and the rest are undergoing due process.
    The rape charge concerns a child brought to the Preda Children's Home by the Philippines authorities after she complained to her teachers and the police that her half-brother and a house boy were sexually abusing her. After consistently blaming the two boys in videotaped interviews, the girl, when returned to her father, produced a hand-written note accusing Fr Cullen of abuse. The note was written in an establishment on Baloy Beach in Olongapo run by a German named Harry Joost, a long-standing critic of Fr Cullen who has been involved in setting up internet web pages attacking the work of the Preda Foundation.
    Fr Cullen describes Baloy Beach as "a haven for paedophiles and sex tourists" and says that the note was "coerced and fabricated" under the influence of Harry Joost and the girl's father.
27 Sep 00

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