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Sister cleared of trafficking charges in Colombo

 COLOMBO (Agencies): Sister Mary Eliza, from the Missionaries of Charity in Colombo, Sri Lanka, was cleared of a charge of trafficking children on December 15 at a court hearing, after spending three days in police custody before being released on bail.

Indian-born Sister Eliza was arrested on November 25, after police acted on information given by an anonymous caller accusing the sisters of profiteering from adoptions and selling children to foreigners.

Officials from the National Child Protection Authority brought the charges against the director of the sisters’ home for single, abandoned pregnant women and abandoned children, the Prem Nivesa Hostel.

The attorney general was critical of the protection agency for acting in a manner described as irresponsible, by bringing charges based on an anonymous tip off without checking the facts first.

UCA News quoted Father Noel Dias, from Colombo archdiocese, as saying, “The protection agency should have taken due regard for the confidentiality of the institution and in this particular instance, it has been damaged.”

A Catholic lawyer, Neville Abeyratne, added, “The arrest is illegal and the undue publicity given to it has caused immense hardship to the sisters concerned, and also the entire Catholic Church.”

He added, “The outcome to this case has proved that the sisters are doing a humanitarian service and they are not interested in taking any action against the protection agency, due to their mission to serve the needy.”

The protection agency carried out an investigation into the case post factum and concluded that there was no substance to the anonymous tip off.

A government media spokesperson issued an apology for the mistakes made in handling the case.

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