OECUSSE, East Timor (AP) — A defrocked American priest accused of sexually abusing orphaned and disadvantaged young girls under his care in East Timor was found guilty Tuesday and sentenced to 12 years in prison, in the first case of its kind in the staunchly Catholic nation.
Richard Daschbach, 84, who spent decades as a missionary in the country’s remote enclave of Oecusse, faced charges of child sexual abuse as well as child pornography and domes- tic violence.
The trial began in Febru- ary but was postponed several times before concluding last month. During the proceed- ings, victims complained about threats and online attacks. Daschbach maintains strong backing from some, including former President Xanana Gus- mao, who went to the court on Tuesday. East Timor is the most Catholic place outside the Vatican and Daschbach is revered for his role during the tiny Southeast Asian nation’s fight for independence.
The church and foreign do- nors who once supported Das- chbach’s shelter said he con- fessed to the abuse, but the former priest and his lawyers have at various times refused to comment. They did not make their legal strategy public and court proceedings were closed.
Daschbach, the son of a Pittsburgh steelworker, was ordained in 1964 by the Society of the Divine Word at its head- quarters outside of Chicago.