Ex-teacher at Opus Dei school sentenced to 11 years for abuse

Ex-teacher at Opus Dei school sentenced to 11 years for abuse

Ex-teacher at Opus Dei school sentenced to 11 years for abuse

On the right, ex-professor of Gaztelueta, José María Martínez Sanz, upon arrival at court during a trial session. (Credit: AP.)

A former lay teacher at an Opus Dei school in Spain has been sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Spanish judge for sexually abusing a student, and has been banned from contacting the victim for the next 15 years.

A Spanish layman and member of Opus Dei was sentenced to 11 years in prison Thursday after he was found guilty of sexually abusing a minor. The ruling comes after prosecutors had asked for a 20-month sentence, saying they doubted some of the testimony of the victim.

José María Martínez Sanz, professor of the all-male school Gaztelueta in Leioa, northern Spain, was accused of abusing a student from 2008 to 2010, when the student was 12 and 13 years old. The case had been investigated by ecclesial authorities and the school, but nothing came of those probes.

The professor, who no longer works in the school, has been sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Spanish judge and has been banned from contacting the victim for the next 15 years.

During the trial Martínez insisted on his innocence, and prosecutors acknowledged they had doubts regarding some of the allegations. However, the lawyer of the victim argued that at the beginning, the victim hadn’t told the whole story because he was ashamed. According to him, the abuse escalated from indecent touching to penetration.

The former professor has five days to appeal the ruling.

According to Spanish newspaper El Diario Norte the family was “immensely satisfied” with the ruling, after years of having the allegations ignored. During the trial, Imanol Gayarrola, headmaster of the institution who was the second in command during the years of abuse, was responsible for the internal investigation and he insisted that he found “no evidence that the accusations were true.”

He added that it was “impossible” for Martínez to use his office to abuse the victim, who today is 22, because it was a public place.

Yet the father of the victim, Juan Cuatrecasas, also gave testimony during the trial and accused the school of “doing nothing.”

Both the school and the defense agree that Gaztelueta was informed at the end of the 2010/2011 school year of the allegations. That year, the student was no longer in the school at the family’s decision, as the victim had also spoken about bullying.

After a personal crisis in May, the victim said he was being threatened by his former schoolmates, and he began to verbalize the sexual abuses.

The parents had a meeting at the school where they brought up the allegations against the former students, two of whom have been found guilty by a family court of threatening their former classmate.

Gayarrola was then tasked with investigating the abuse allegations, including accusations that the former tutor had shown the victim pictures of half-naked women with sexual intent. Yet according to the now-headmaster, evidence of those images could not be found on Martínez’s computer. Furthermore, the school had a filter to avoid access to pornographic material.

Yet according to the defendant’s lawyer, Martínez had searched for images of Emma Watson, one of the actresses of Harry Potter, “naked” and even “raped.” There’s also a picture in the computer that is titled “emmawatsonnaked.” She was one of the women the victim claimed the professor had shown him.

In a statement made after the ruling, the Opus Dei school said that they are “committed” to responding to “any circumstance of abuse or harassment that a minor might suffer,” and “determined” to fight this “very grave crime.”

However, they added they’re “very affected” by the sentence, because, the statement says, on several opportunities the case had been internally investigated and found inconsistent.

With no words of support to the former student, the school does say that the sentence can still be appealed and that it’s not “definitive.”

When the case became public in 2012, the school responded with a statement saying that they were “especially hurt by the treatment of the former professor, since the published account of the facts is constructed through a unilateral version of the facts.”

The professor, who at the time was in Australia, had made no statement to the media. The school also said at that time that they had testimony of professors and students which contradicted the alleged facts.

The prosecutor demanded three years in prison, and during the trial even questioned the most serious accusations made by the victim, which included penetration. The prosecutor even suggested an “alternative” sentence of 20 months in prison.

Yet all the medical experts who treated the victim supported his testimony, and underlined that if at the beginning he hadn’t shared all the abuse it was due to fear and because it’s normal that in these cases “reality becomes more evident with time.”

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