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India Cardinal vows to protest acquittal of suspects in nun rape case

(Reuters/Anindito Mukherjee)Christians hold candles during a vigil to show solidarity with the nun who was raped during an armed assault on a convent school, in New Delhi March 16, 2015.

A cardinal has vowed to challenge the acquittal of two men who were accused of raping a 48-year-old nun at a nursing center run by missionaries in India in June 2015.

The nun, who was not named, was allegedly assaulted by two masked men who forced her way into her room at the Krist Sahaya Kendra center, a facility in the city of Raipur, Chhattisgarh that treats children and people with minor injuries.

The accused, Dinesh Dhurv, 19, and Jitendra Pathak, 25, supposedly tied her hands and feet before raping her. She was found by her fellow nuns tied to her bed the next day and was brought to a nearby hospital.

The judge who presided over the case ruled that there is not enough evidence to convict the two men.

Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai called the verdict a "grave injustice" and said that the Church will appeal the case.

"This acquittal once again brings into focus the violence against women. It is a great setback for all of us working for the rights and dignity of women, and especially for our victims of violence," he told Crux.

"This kind of acquittal will have grave social consequences, and may also create a [negative] law-and-order situation. It shows the lackadaisical attitude of the police. The Catholic Church in India will move the higher court for justice for our consecrated [woman]," he added.

The police were reportedly reluctant to take up the case and only opened a formal investigation following widespread protests and intervention from India's National Human Rights Commission.

A probe conducted by the commission found that the evidence was destroyed by the police and suggested that they may have been protecting the suspects.

Christians and other minority groups in India have long complained that police and security forces in certain parts of the country have often turned a blind eye when the said groups become victims of a crime. The authorities sometimes fail to investigate or do so in a casual manner that is seemingly designed not to produce results.

Sister Meena Barwa, a rape survivor and a member of Handmaids of Mary religious order, expressed her disappointment about the verdict.

"We seek justice in court, and [for rape victims] the process of trial is horrendous and traumatic, and finally, this is the verdict meted out," she said, describing the outcome as a "double injustice that risks further marginalizing women."

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