A defrocked American priest went on trial in Timor-Leste on Feb. 23 to begin facing charges that he sexually abused more than a dozen young girls under his care in the impoverished nation.
Richard Daschbach, a former priest and missionary with the Society of the Divine Word, faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, reported the Associated Press.
The 84-year-old faces 14 counts of sexual abuse of children under 14 years of age. He also faces one count of child pornography and a count of domestic violence.
Legal group JU,S Jurídico Social are acting on behalf of 15 females who have accused Daschbach of abusing them. AP reported that foreign donors who once supported the former priest, believe there are likely many more victims.
“He deceived all of us — and he has no remorse,” said Tony Hamilton, an Australian businessman who was donor, reported Rappler.
The former missionary was expelled from the Catholic Church in 2018 after admitting he had abused children in his care.
Pennsylvania-born Daschbach first arrived in Timor-Leste in 1966 when it was still a Portuguese colony.
The alleged abuse occurred for years at a children’s home he established and ran which provided hundreds of disadvantaged youth with food, clothing, shelter and an education.
“He is a very bad person, like a monster who has brainwashed an entire community into worshiping him as if he were God,” said one victim interviewed by Rappler.
The trial was originally scheduled for Feb. 22, but judges asked for a delay to revise documents. At the closed trial on Feb. 23, the charges against Daschbach were read out by prosecutors and a panel of judges adjourned the trial until March 22 when witnesses from both sides will testify.
The case has greatly divided the young nation that officially gained its independence from Indonesia in 2002. Former President Xanana Gusmao has been criticized for publicly supporting Daschbach who is also wanted in the US on three counts of wire fraud.