A defrocked American priest was found guilty in East Timor on Tuesday of sexually abusing young girls under his care at the remote orphanage he founded.
Richard Daschbach, 84, was sentenced to 12 years in prison after being charged with child sexual abuse, child pornography and domestic violence.
More than a dozen females came forward alleging they had been abused by Daschbach at his Topu Honis orphanage in the southeast Asian country’s remote enclave of Oecusse.
Only nine ended up being included in the sex abuse case due to legal technicalities.
Five accusers detailed the abuse in interviews with The Associated Press, saying Daschbach would keep a list of young girls on his bedroom door and choose one to sit on his lap every night as the orphanage held prayers before bed.
The girl sitting on Daschbach’s lap would sleep with him that night and be subjected to varying types of abuse, including oral sex and rape, the accusers said.
Daschbach, a former missionary from Pennsylvania, set up the orphanage in the 1990s after moving from the US. Hundreds of children have passed through his orphanage since its founding.
Daschbach was defrocked in 2018 when the sexual abuse allegations first surfaced. His lawyer, Julio Farma, said he and his client are disappointed with the court’s verdict and plan to appeal.
“Evidence provided by the shelter matron and former students who lived in the orphanage were ignored by the court,” Farma said.
The lawyer also claimed some accusers changed their initial statements — with the new statements becoming the sole basis for the judges’ decision.
JU,S Jurídico Social, a group of human rights lawyers representing the accusers, also plan to appeal, arguing the sentence wasn’t strong enough.
“The history written today is a bitter history for the entire nation,” the group said. “Our children were subjected to horrendous crimes for such a long time because we, as a society, were blinded by the belief that a figure as the defendant in this case would not commit such crimes against children.”
The case is the first child sex case brought against a priest in East Timor.
The trial was complicated, at times, by Daschbach’s hero status during the country’s struggle for independence and the loyal devotion of his followers. Some of the victims complained about threats and online attacks during the court proceedings.
Among Daschbach’s staunch supporters is former President Xanana Gusmao, who was in court for the sentencing on Tuesday.
In August, Daschbach was indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington, DC on seven counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct at the shelter.
Daschbach faces up to 30 years in prison for each count if convicted, but the Department of Justice hasn’t said whether it plans to try to extradite him.
With Post Wires