February 18, 2015 / 9:13 PM / 4 years ago

Chile priest who took babies for adoption will not be prosecuted

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - A Catholic priest in Chile who was instrumental in taking babies from their mothers for adoption by others in the 1970s and 1980s will not face prosecution, after a court ruled that too much time had passed since the events in question.

Last year, an internal probe by the church found that Gerardo Joannon handed over at least two babies for adoption, telling the mothers that their babies had died and even holding funeral masses for them.

But Judge Mario Carroza dismissed the judicial case on Tuesday, saying that the deadline had passed for a prosecution to be made on the charges brought.

Joannon, now in his seventies, has said that his actions were due to the stigma attached to unmarried mothers at that time, rather than overtly political reasons. The events took place during the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, an era of state-sponsored disappearances and assassinations that still casts a dark shadow over Chilean society.

The church, which also found that Joannon had maintained an “inappropriate relationship” with one of the mothers, has said it will not punish him, again because it said too much time has passed.

Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta, Writing by Rosalba O'Brien; Editing by Christian Plumb

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