Monk on trial for rape, sex abuse

Helsinki, Finland - A Finnish Orthodox monk went on trial on Tuesday on charges related to eight sex crimes, including three rapes and sexual abuse of a child, the trial judge said.

"The hearing has begun and it is being held behind closed doors," said Liisa Laatikainen, judge in the Haapajarvi court in central Finland.

"The hearing will continue tomorrow and the decision will be given later ... likely in early February," she told Reuters.

Cases of sexual abuse by clerics or members of holy orders are extremely rare in Finland.

Finnish news agency STT said the suspect was a middle-aged monk and the crimes were committed in 2002-2003.

Laatikainen would only confirm the case involved four victims, but declined to give any further details.

"The sentence for these kinds of crimes is usually several years' imprisonment, if someone is found guilty," she said.

About 84 percent of Finland's 5.3 million people are members of the Lutheran Church, with just more than 1 percent of the population Orthodox.