East Timorese Prosecutor brings charges against former priest for child abuse
The East Timorese Prosecutor’s Office has brought the charge against a former US priest for sexual abuse of children in the Oecusse-Ambeno enclave, the attorney general, José da Costa Ximenes, announced today.
Father Richard Daschbach, 82, is under house arrest in Dili and is accused of abusing at least two dozen children in the orphanage where he worked.
“He is accused of the crime of sexual abuse against minors, with an aggravated sentence”, he explained, referring that a civil interposition was made to close the Topu Honis orphanage.
José Ximenes said that the case, which has been under investigation for over a year, is under the tutelage of the prosecution in Oecusse.
Data from the prosecutor’s office were released days after a controversial report from the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Dili was released, which “investigated” the case, at the request of the family that has protected the priest and elements linked to the Topu Honis.
The controversial report, which included data on the alleged victims, attempted to deflect all the priest’s responsibilities, seeking to accuse the Timorese judicial and police authorities and organizations that have supported victims of “collective sexual abuse” for allegedly conducting forensic examinations and hearings of women. victims.
Several of the alleged victims were placed in protective homes, normally used by the police and the judicial system, but the report claims they were “abducted”.
Signed by Father Hermínio de Fátima Gonçalvez, in the report, to which Lusa had access, judicial investigations are criticized, the authorities are accused of abducting the children whom they have given protection and even the places of protection are revealed.
Accusing victim support organizations of being “a network” that acts in a “structured” way with the Government, prosecutors, the health sector and the police, the priest says the investigation was “an organized child exploitation operation, human trafficking and mafia justice ”.
In December of last year, the Dili Court had ordered the preventive arrest of Richard Daschbach, who was expelled from the organization to which he was linked, the congregation Societas Verbi Divini (SVD or Society of the Divine Word), when the crimes were known.
The coercion measure was applied after 82-year-old former priest Richard Daschbach traveled under strong police escort from the enclave to the Timorese capital.
The former priest appealed for preventive detention and the Court of Appeal ended, on July 12, by changing the coercion measure to house arrest.
Despite this and according to a judicial source, Daschbach remained “in an uncertain part” for a few days, having subsequently returned to the house where he is in Dili.
The decision came after the visit to Timor-Leste of an SDV prosecutor, Father Peter Dikos, who at the time lamented the delay of the Timorese justice in acting in the case, confirming that the information points to the fact that “systematic abuses of girls from daily way ”.
“This has been going on for years and years,” said Dikos, noting that “there is no such case” in the organization’s history.
Dikos noted that although the Vatican dealt with the case by expelling the former priest, it was “a challenge from the start to deal with the police”, with the SVD taking Daschbach to the police at least twice, asking for a document confirming the handing over the suspect to the authorities.
Daschbach was detained in April 2019 for a first interrogation, months after the case was reported, and ordered to leave the enclave and return to his home in Maliana.
Victims said they had already been the target of threats for reporting Richard Daschbach’s abuses, allegedly committed over several years to dozens of children.
Daschbach, a native of Pittsburg, in the United States, has lived in Timor-Leste since 1966 and, in 1992, established two children’s shelters, Topu Honis, in two spaces in the Oecusse enclave.
Although Daschbach admitted to several people that he was responsible for the crimes, he continued to live for several months in the small locality of the Oecusse enclave, where he is accused of having committed the abuses, an aspect that had aroused several criticisms in Timor-Leste.
A Timorese organization released a testimony from a young woman who says she was one of several children who were victims of sexual abuse by the former American priest.
The young woman explains that the then priest – whom he calls ‘father’ – never said in words what he wanted, but in gestures, including masturbation, oral sex and touching, grabbing the girls to show what he wanted them to do.
The testimony confirms that the cases of abuse were known in the community where, in spite of that, the priest “was very respected”.
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