Former Priest on Trial for Sex Abuse in Timor Leste
February 23, 2021
American accused of abusing children younger than 14 in a home for disadvantaged youth that he founded and ran.
The trial of a defrocked 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 on Tuesday.
Richard Daschbach, 84, a former missionary from Pennsylvania, faces 14 counts of sexual abuse of children younger than 14 years old, as well as one count each of child pornography and domestic violence, according to the prosecutor general. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
It is the first clergy sexual abuse case to emerge in the Southeast Asian nation of about three million people, where 97 percent of the population is Catholic.
Some 100 supporters of Daschbach showed up but were denied entry to the court for the closed proceedings, which have sharply divided by the country. The case has pitted families and politicians against one another, with tensions so high accusers fear they will be targeted with violence if publicly identified.
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 is publicly supporting a man accused of abusing children.