2/2 A judge in Kosovo has blocked the extradition to Britain of a monk accused of child abuse - says today's Times.
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The Metropolitan police had sought to bring back Laurence Soper, a senior cleric in the Roman Catholic Church, when he was found in the Balkans after a five-year manhunt.
A judge sitting in Peja, where Mr Soper was arrested last month, rejected the extradition request this week because the alleged crimes have expired in Kosovo, which has a 30-year statute of limitations. Mr Soper, 72, the former abbot of Ealing who taught at the nearby St Benedict’s school in west London, is accused of offences dating back to the 1970s.
The Met will appeal and another hearing is expected to take place imminently at the appeal court in Pristina.
Sahide Gashi, a prosecutor in the Peja office, said that Mr Soper would remain in custody until the final decision had been made. She said that he had agreed to be extradited but the “court rejected it due to the criminal law which is in force in Kosovo”.
One of Mr Soper’s alleged victims expressed disappointment at the latest setback: “We deserve our day in court.”
A spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: “We are pleased that the prosecutor in Kosovo has lodged an appeal against the judge’s decision in this case. The CPS and other agencies continue to do all we can to ensure this individual is extradited following a request by the UK government.”
Mr Soper taught at St Benedict’s from 1972 to 1984 and was abbot at Ealing for nine years until 2000. He was one of the most powerful figures in the Benedictine order, the oldest Catholic monastic order, and also served as part-time chaplain at Harrow School and as a visiting chaplain at Feltham young offender institution.
In 2010, when Mr Soper was living in Italy, a complainant in his 40s reported historical claims of abuse to police. Mr Soper was arrested and questioned, and allowed to keep his passport and return to Rome, where he lived at Collegio Sant’Anselmo, the order’s headquarters. He vanished the next year when he was asked to answer bail in London.
A European Arrest Warrant was issued but Mr Soper was only arrested last month in Peja, Kosovo’s third largest city. He had been living there for years under his real name and told locals he was writing a book.
The Times understands that he has travelled around the region on his British passport and made 22 trips to Macedonia since 2011. It raises questions over why he was not arrested there, because Macedonia is a member of Europol.
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