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Irish priest's extradition in rape case a step closer

A Catholic priest fighting extradition to Ireland over accusations he raped a 15-year-old boy 40 years ago could be in custody as early as next Wednesday, and faces being sent back here, after a US judge blocked attempts to halt his extradition.

Evidence being presented before the federal courthouse in South Bend, Indiana, regarding Fr Francis Markey may be weak and suspect but it was up to an Irish court to weigh the evidence, said magistrate judge Christopher Neuchterlein on Friday.

Fr Markey, 82, was arrested by US marshals last November at his Indiana home in connection with the alleged rape of a 15-year-old boy in 1968 on foot of an extradition warrant. Fr Markey and his attorneys have been fighting the extradition bid since.

The priest, who was based in Monaghan, is accused of raping a 15-year-old boy twice, including the day of the then-teenager's father's funeral.

The man, who is now 57, made a complaint to gardai.

Fr Markey had been working as a drug and addiction counsellor at a centre in Michigan, with clients including young people. On Friday, his attorney, Mahmoud Bassiouni, said the only evidence of the crime presented by Irish authorities in their extradition bid was a report by the alleged victim -- who recalled being molested by Fr Markey as a child while recently undergoing counselling for alcoholism.

Mr Bassiouni wanted to introduce testimony from a psychologist who would cite research showing that improperly trained counsellors could "coach" or "induce" clients to recall past traumatic events as a way of rationalising current substance abuse or mental health problems.

"It goes to the very heart of the credibility of the only witness in this case," said Markey's attorney.

But assistant US attorney Kenneth Hays argued that Markey's attorneys were trying to "contradict" rather then merely "explain" the State's evidence, something not allowed in extradition cases under US law. The judge agreed and refused to allow the psychologist to testify.

"The evidence before this court may be weak. It may be suspect. But it's simply not the role of this court to weigh the evidence. That's up to the Irish court," the judge said.

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The judge said he would also rule against a second argument made by Markey's lawyers, that because of a change in Irish law in 1993, which abolished the law against "buggery", his extradition was not lawful.

But the judge said that, regardless of the change, it was still illegal in Ireland to have sex with children. He gave the two sides until Wednesday to make further motions and Markey's attorneys said they would file more motions seeking to block the extradition.

The judge agreed to let the priest remain free on bail until then. But it's understood he could be taken into custody then and extradited soon after.

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