Judges in East Timor unexpectedly postponed the trial on Monday of a defrocked American priest facing allegations he sexually abused young girls at a remote children’s shelter he ran in East Timor.
Soon after Richard Daschbach, a former missionary, arrived in the courtroom in the capital Dili, the judges said they needed more time to make revisions to documents and asked the 84-year-old defendant to return on Tuesday.
The former priest is charged with 14 counts of sexual abuse of children under the age of 14, as well as counts of child pornography and domestic violence, according to the country’s prosecutor general.
Daschbach could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
The case against him is East Timor’s first child sex case brought against a priest, but it has been complicated by his hero status and loyal devotion from followers in one of the most Catholic countries in the world.
Allegations that Daschbach was abusing children at his shelter first surfaced three years ago. When confronted with the allegations by church investigators, Daschbach confessed to systematically abusing scores of orphan girls under his care.
Former donors to his orphanage also said he admitted his crimes to them, but the ex-priest has never admitted to it publicly.
He did not express any remorse and was subsequently defrocked by Pope Francis.
This year, Xanana Gusmao, independence hero and East Timor’s former president, drew rare condemnation after being accused of whitewashing the crimes of the disgraced American priest.
On Jan 26 – Daschbach’s 84th birthday – Gusmao visited him at his home in Dili, where he is under house arrest.
In a video taken at the meeting, which was covered by local media, Gusmao hugs the former priest and feeds him birthday cake.
Gusmao’s three children, who live in Melbourne, Australia, were appalled and wrote apologies to Daschbach’s victims.
Australian Tony Hamilton is a former orphanage sponsor and one of a number of people to whom Daschbach has admitted his crimes since the allegations first surfaced.
“He admitted to everything he has been accused of in graphic detail and said it was OK because it was his nature,” he said.
“He deceived all of us – and he has no remorse.”