A Catholic priest went on trial in the German city of Cologne on Tuesday for allegedly sexually abusing children.

The 70-year-old stands accused of abusing his three nieces in the 1990s in the western town of Gummersbach.

They were aged between seven and thirteen at the time.

He is charged on 31 counts, three of which the public prosecutor describes as particularly serious.

The clergyman also allegedly abused an 11-year-old girl in Wuppertal in 2011 when she visited him with a friend.

The public prosecutor’s office brought charges in this case just more than two weeks ago.

The court has now combined the two proceedings.

At the request of the defence, the trial will be behind closed doors following the arraignment.

The accused lawyer said that the accusations against his client is related to his private life and not his duties as a priest.

The court is expected to call on Hamburg Archbishop Stefan Hesse as a witness during the trial.

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The accused, once served as the head of personnel in the archdiocese of Cologne.

According to a court spokesperson, he has been summoned for Jan. 18, 2022.(dpa/NAN)