A defrocked American priest was jailed for 12 years on Tuesday for sexually abusing children at an East Timor shelter, in a case that caused sharp divisions in the deeply Catholic nation.
At least 15 women had accused Richard Daschbach, 84, of sexually abusing them when they were children at his shelter in the enclave of Oecusse, with fears that there may be many more victims.
A panel of judges found the ex-priest guilty of several sex crimes at the shelter, which was founded in the early 1990s and housed hundreds of orphans and impoverished children.
They handed down several sentences totalling 37 years behind bars, but presiding judge Yudi Pamungkas said that was reduced considering his age.
Daschbach was under house arrest during the trial, and the judges ordered his immediate imprisonment to prevent any escape attempt.
The court also ordered East Timor authorities to pay financial compensation to the victims.
Daschbach moved to East Timor in the mid-1970s, and was once widely revered for his charity work in the Southeast Asian nation.
He was defrocked by the Vatican in 2018, but details of the sex abuse allegations were only disclosed the next year when the case was reported by a local news outlet.
Catholic officials in East Timor’s capital Dili said this year that Daschbach was dismissed because he had admitted to the “heinous crime”.
But Daschbach retained broad support in the Catholic nation, including among some members of the political elite because of his support for East Timor’s independence movement.
Many devout Catholic Timorese have cast doubt on the abuse claims. Most alleged victims did not want to be identified because they feared retribution.
In August, Daschbach was also indicted in the US for the sexual abuse of minors.