Ottawa (AFP) - A defrocked Catholic priest was found guilty Friday of raping dozens of children and a sled dog in the Canadian Arctic, where he worked as a missionary for decades.
The Belgian-born Eric Dejaeger, 67, was convicted of 31 counts of sexual offenses against children and one count of bestiality.
At the start of the his trial last November in Iqaluit, the capital of Canada's northernmost Nunavut territory, Dejaeger acknowledged and pleaded guilty to eight out of 80 original charges.
Justice Robert Kilpatrick ruled the evidence had been weakened by the passage of time, and whittled down the number in the indictment.
The defense and prosecution have 30 days to appeal the decision. Otherwise, Dejaeger is expected to be back in court in January for sentencing.
The Iqaluit court clerk told AFP that more than 20 victims from the Inuit hamlet of Igloolik, on the shores of the Northwest Passage, testified at the emotionally charged trial.
Public broadcaster CBC said they recounted how Dejaeger used his position as a missionary to lure and trap them into sex, threatening them with hellfire and separation from their families if they exposed him.
From 1978 to 1982, Dejaeger worked alongside other local priests in Igloolik in what was then the Northwest Territories, and eventually took on Canadian citizenship.
In 1990, he was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for sexually assaulting eight children in Baker Lake, Nunavut.
Following his release from prison and facing fresh allegations, he fled to his birth country of Belgium, where he was arrested in 2011 and subsequently returned to Canada.
He has been in custody ever since.