Three clergymen and a religion teacher suspected of sexually abusing at least one minor in Granada were spared preventive prison following their court arraignment on Wednesday.
Román Martínez, considered the leader of a ring that may have abused a number of youngsters over several years, was granted bail of €10,000, which the accused has already deposited.
The other three suspects were released after the charges were read out to them, and forbidden to go near the two former altar boys who have filed complaints against them.
The first alleged victim sent a letter to Pope Francis before the summer, detailing his ordeal. To his surprise, the pontiff personally phoned him to apologize in the name of the Catholic Church and assure him that he had ordered an internal investigation into the case.
A second individual, who was named in that letter as another possible victim, has since stepped forward to confirm the abuse and file a police complaint against Los Romanones, as the ring was widely referred to locally.
Sources familiar with the investigation said that all four suspects entered pleas of not guilty and claimed that the accusations were the result of spurious interests by the two former altar boys, who are now in their 20s.
The same sources noted that the fact that the pope ordered an internal investigation two months before a court did the same may have led several witnesses and suspects to adapt their testimony to cover up for one another. So far, witnesses questioned by the judge have all denied being aware of any wrongdoing by Los Romanones.
When they were arrested on Monday, the four suspects were inside one of the 20 properties owned by the ring, which investigators are also looking into. Police found two computers whose contents had been entirely deleted.
The case has caused uproar in Granada, most particularly in the neighborhood of Zaidín, where the alleged ringleader officiated mass. The walls of the parish church were spray-painted with the words “Dirty pedophiles,” although the messages were quickly removed.