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The Kerala High Court on Wednesday dismissed the anticipatory bail applications of three priests of Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church accused of sexually assaulting a woman. 

The priests, Abraham Varghese alias Sony varghese, Job Mathew and Jaise K George, had approached the court soon after the Crime Branch wing of Kerala Police slapped rape charges against four of the five Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church priests, including them, in the case. 

Dismissing their bail pleas, Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan said serious allegations had been raised against the accused. If anticipatory bail was granted at this stage, it would adversely affect the investigation, which was at a preliminary stage, the court said. 

Earlier, the court had directed the police to produce the complaint of sexual harassment of the woman, filed by her husband and other documents related to the case.    

In their bail applications, the priests rejected the woman's allegations that they had sexually assaulted her. They alleged that the case was registered against them "solely at the instance of the political pressure exerted by certain vested interests to derive political mileage". 

The crime branch has registered an FIR against the priests after recording the victim woman's statement. Last month, the woman's husband had accused the five priests of using his wife's secret confession to "blackmail" and "sexually abuse" her. 

The incident had come to light after an audio clip of the man's purported conversation with a church official alleging sexual abuse of his wife by the priests was widely circulated on social media. 

Veteran CPI(M) leader and chairman of Kerala Administrative Reforms Commission V S Achuthanandan and the National Commission for Women had written to Kerala DGP Loknath Behara, demanding a probe into the charges.
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