OECUSSE (EAST TIMOR)
Associated Press via The Citizens Voice
February 23, 2021
By Raimudos Oki
A defrocked American priest went on trial Tuesday to face charges he sexually abused young girls at his shelter for orphans and children from impoverished families, in the first clergy sex case to emerge in East Timor — the most Catholic place in the world outside the Vatican.
Richard Daschbach, 84, a former missionary from Pennsylvania, is facing 14 counts of sexual abuse of children under 14 years old, as well as one count each of child pornography and domestic violence, according to the country’s prosecutor general.
He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
Police presence was heavy at the small courthouse near the beach, as about 100 supporters of the former priest showed up but were denied entry to the courtroom for the closed proceedings.
Devout followers in the young country of 1.3 million — 97% of whom are Catholic — have been sharply divided by the case, with some families and politicians pitted against one another and tensions so high accusers fear they will be targeted by violence if publicly identified.
Former President Xanana Gusmao, himself a revered revolutionary fighter, was briefly present in the courtroom with Daschbach on Tuesday. The former leader is still very powerful in the country, and some — including his own children — have questioned why he is publicly supporting a man accused of abusing children.
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