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A fact-finding mission launched by an outfit linked with the Goa Church today said the arrest of a man for a series of desecrations of holy crosses in Goa seemed to be a ploy to "divert attention". "It has been reported that one Francis Pereira has admitted to have single-handedly desecrated and vandalised one hundred and forty-odd religious symbols in the last five years," Fr Savio Fernandes, executive secretary, Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), said in a statement. The CSJP, a wing of Church in Goa, had formed a fact- finding team along with the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) to probe the incidents of desecration. The team felt that the arrest "appears as a familiar script" which played itself out in similar crimes across the country, and carried out only to "pacify the civil society and the affected communities and divert attention from the actual perpetrators", Fernandes said. The damage to holy crosses, as examined by the fact- finding team, could not have been possibly inflicted by a single person who is over fifty years old, he said, demanding "impartial investigation". A special investigation team (SIT) of Goa Police arrested Francis Pereira, a native of Curchorem village in South Goa, last night while he was trying to desecrate a cross at Curtorim village, nearly 20 km from his house, the police said earlier in the day. He had admitted to vandalising 12 crosses in South Goa in the past fortnight, a senior police officer claimed.
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