Officials in Paraguay have arrested a man at the center of a scandal in which he is accused of impregnating his 10-year-old stepdaughter.
Agence France-Presse reports 42-year-old Gilberto Benitez was arrested Saturday after 15 days on the run.
Benitez has denied the charges against him, saying he was set up by the young girl’s mother.
“I will do any (paternity) test to show it wasn't me,” Benitez was quoted as saying by AFP. “I've been with tons of women, and I never got anybody pregnant.”
If convicted, he could face 15 years in prison.
According to The Washington Post, the story of the reported pregnancy began April 21, when the unnamed girl was brought to a public hospital by her mother, after the girl complained of abdominal pains and her mother began to fear she had a tumor.
Doctors who examined the girl reportedly found she was 22 weeks pregnant.
The mother reportedly told authorities her daughter must have been raped, and named Benitez as the person she suspected.
Since Benitez’s arrest, officials have also reportedly arrested the girl’s mother and charged her with enabling her daughter’s abuse.
The Washington Post reported Benitez as being the woman’s husband, while AFP reported the two are not married and identified him only as the woman’s boyfriend.
News of the pregnancy has sparked a nationwide debate over abortion in the devoutly Catholic country.
Guadalupe Marengo, of Amnesty International, has called on Paraguay’s government to allow the girl to undergo an abortion.
“The physical and psychological impact of forcing this young girl to continue with an unwanted pregnancy is tantamount to torture,” Marengo said in a news release. “The Paraguayan authorities cannot sit idly by while this young rape-survivor is forced to endure more agony and torment.”
But, according to CNN, Paraguayan law prohibits abortion except in extreme cases where the mother’s life might be in danger, and the Paraguayan Ministry of Health has reportedly determined that so such danger exists in the girl’s case.
“The pregnancy will not be interrupted,” Paraguayan Health Minister Antonio Barrios has been reported as saying by numerous news outlets. “We’ve already completely ruled out abortion.”
According to CNN, Barrios said that once the girl delivers the child it will up to the country’s Justice Department to determine who will take custody of the baby.
The 10-year-old girl is reported to be in the care of a Red Cross hospital in the southwestern Paraguayan city of Asuncion. She will reportedly be later transferred to a shelter where she will continue to undergo prenatal care.