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Ex-teacher arrested in Chile; child sex abuse in Spain alleged

  • Suspect, Jose Angel Arregui Erana, arrested in August 2009
  • He doesn't appear to have been a priest, but a teacher in a Catholic order's schools
  • Arregui held on suspicion of filming abuse, possessing images of sexually abused boys
  • Authorities say none of the alleged victims have been willing to go public

Madrid, Spain (CNN) -- A man who used to teach at a Roman Catholic religious order's schools in Spain has been arrested in Chile on suspicion of sexually abusing children, police in Spain and Chile said Tuesday.

The suspect, Jose Angel Arregui Erana, was arrested in August 2009 in Chile, where he was teaching. He was held on suspicion of filming the abuse and possessing images of sexually abused boys, Jaime Jara, a Chilean cybercrime unit police commander, told CNN partner station CNN+ by telephone Tuesday.

Jara said that the suspected crime of possessing the illegal images occurred in Chile but that the alleged sexual abuse of the students and the filming of it apparently occurred in Spain.

Arregui, who is in his early 50s, was a physical education teacher in Spain and allegedly placed hidden cameras in gyms and bathrooms to film sexual abuse of the students, Jara told CNN+, a 24-hour Spanish language news channel based in Madrid.

The allegations come against a backdrop of allegations of child abuse by priests in Ireland, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands in recent months. The suspect in the Spanish case does not appear to have been a priest, but a layman teaching in schools run by a Catholic order.

"The alleged events happened here, in Spain," a Spanish Civil Guard spokesman in Madrid told CNN.

The spokesman, who by custom is not identified, said that Civil Guard investigators have been working on the case in recent months and that there has been more than one complaint from an alleged victim.

But none of the alleged victims so far have been willing to go public about the events, which in some cases occurred years ago, the Civil Guard spokesman said.

The religious order for which Arregui worked in Spain reacted with surprise and indignation Tuesday. But spokesmen for the San Viator congregation said neither they nor other members of the order were aware of the alleged abuse and had received no complaints.

Ignacio Pelaez, a spokesman for the San Viator congregation in Madrid, said, "It's surprising and of concern. They knew nothing about this. If they knew about this situation, they would have raised the matter or taken all measures to avoid it."

The suspect taught at various San Viator schools, including one in Madrid and another in the town of Basauri, in Spain's northern Basque region.

"We are more than surprised. We are upset, and we want this to be solved as soon as possible," said Juan Antonio Elgoibar, principal of the San Jose School in Basauri. "And we want it solved in the best way possible."

The principal said his congregation has "given all the facilities and help needed to all the members of the investigation team."

The Civil Guard spokesman said the small number of complaints from alleged victims had gone to police, not necessarily to church officials.

A woman who lives in Basauri told CNN+ there on Tuesday, "This is outrageous. ... So many times the Vatican says so many things ... but the reality is that they hardly talk about it and condemn it. ... It is outrageous."

The Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that Arregui worked at various San Viator order schools in Spain from 1979 through 2007, and that in addition to physical education, he taught language.

He later moved to Chile to teach at the University of St. Thomas, in the capital city, Santiago, El Pais reported.

The case is under investigation in a Madrid court, El Pais reported.

CNN's Al Goodman in Madrid contributed to this report.