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Priest accused of kidnapping prostitutes


Fr Cesare Lodeserto, the former head of an Italian foundation caring for asylum seekers, was arrested last weekend over accusations he had mistreated Romanian prostitutes.

Reuters reports that the women allege that the well-known crusader against sex slavery kidnapped them by taking away their identity papers and refusing to let them leave the immigration centre in southern Lecce province.

Fr Lodeserto's lawyer told Reuters that the priest sheltered them for their own good after they were found drunk in town.

"A few times I behaved like a strict father, but what could I do? These are young girls, easy prey for men looking to fool them," Lodeserto told the magistrate following his case, according to Il Messagero newspaper yesterday.

Reuters says the scandal has "hit a raw nerve in Roman Catholic Italy, where community leaders have in the past been denounced for using tough tactics while helping the less fortunate". It is referring to Vincenzo Muccioli, who put drug addicts in chains and condoned beatings to help them kick the habit.

Lodeserto's Foundation on the Adriatic coast was created in 1997 after a wave of Albanian immigrants poured into eastern Italy, and it has a satellite operation in Moldova. It has a special focus on helping victims of the sex trade.

SOURCE
Italian Priest Accused of Kidnapping Prostitutes (Reuters 16/3/05)

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17 Mar 2005