Americans accused of abusing children under the age of 14 in a home he founded and operated for disadvantaged youth.
The trial of a debilitated American priest charged with sexually abusing young girls at his shelter for orphans and children from impoverished families in East Timor, now known as Timor Leste, began Tuesday.
Richard Daschbach, 84, a former Pennsylvania missionary, has faced 14 cases of sexual abuse of children under the age of 14, as well as one case of child pornography and one case of domestic violence, according to the attorney general. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
It is the first case of clergy sexual abuse in the Southeast Asian nation of approximately three million people, of which 97 percent of the population are Catholic.
Around 100 Daschbach supporters turned up, but were refused entry to the court for the closed proceedings, which were strongly divided by the country. The case has pitted families and politicians against each other. Tensions are so high that prosecutors fear that if they are publicly identified they will be attacked violently.
Former President Xanana Gusmao was briefly present in the courtroom with Daschbach on Tuesday. The former revolutionary leader is still powerful in the country and some – including his own children – have questioned why he publicly supports a man accused of child abuse.
At least 15 accusers
The alleged abuse took place in Topu Honis, a children’s home founded and operated by Daschbach, in which hundreds of young people were taken in and provided with food, clothing, accommodation and schools.
At least 15 women have come forward since then, according to JU, S Jurídico Social, a group of human rights lawyers who represent the prosecutors. But foreign donors who once supported Daschbach believe that there are likely many more victims – possibly hundreds.
Daschbach was debilitated in 2018 after he confessed to sexually abusing the children.
Approximately 97 percent of East Timor’s population is Catholic [Beawiharts/Reuters]The prosecutors have alleged everything from petting and oral sex to rape. Former donors also said he admitted the attacks.
Last month, the former priest told local reporters that his message to the children at the orphanage was, “Be patient. We won’t meet again because I will be imprisoned for life, but I will still remember you and you must be happy there. “
Daschbach, who has also secured American funding, is also wanted in the USA for three cases of wire fraud. Interpol issued a red notice of his arrest.