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Priest charge cites an 'erotic dungeon'

Polish clergyman in Brazil is accused of sexual abuse of boys and converting his parish house.

SAO PAULO, Brazil - A Polish priest accused of sexually abusing a former altar boy in Rio de Janeiro and turning his parish home into an "erotic dungeon" has surrendered and is now in police custody, a public safety official said Saturday.

State prosecutors have accused Marcin Michael Strachanowski of handcuffing the 16-year-old former altar boy to a bed three years ago in the parish house where the priest lived and threatening to kill the youth if he spoke of the abuse.

Strachanowski arrived at a police station Friday night, said a spokesman for Rio's state public security department. He spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with departmental policy. Images published in Brazilian newspapers showed Strachanowski being driven away in a police car.

The 44-year-old priest was suspended from duties after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro learned that a judge had issued an order Thursday for his arrest.

The archdiocese issued a statement Friday announcing the suspension and expressing regret over the alleged abuse.

Judge Alexandre Abrahao Dias said that investigators found "erotic material sent to the victim via Internet to seduce him" and that the priest also took other youths to the parish house, "which he converted into a kind of erotic dungeon where he submitted them, often with the use of handcuffs, to orgies."

Lawyers representing the priest did not immediately return a telephone message left Friday afternoon seeking comment. The judge said he was ordering the priest detained in part because he feared Strachanowski might try to flee Brazil.

Church officials said Strachanowski would also face a canonical legal process by an ecclesiastical tribunal.

The security department spokesman said the priest submitted a document in Polish as evidence that he was a college graduate, which could allow him to be kept in a lockup with better conditions than most Brazilian jails, which are severely overcrowded and dangerous because they are ruled by hardened gang members. The determination will be made by Brazilian education officials in conjunction with authorities.