The trial has started for the 84 year old defrocked American priest who allegedly sexually abused girls at an orphanage he founded in East Timor back in the early 1990s. Richard Daschbach, once revered by the Southeast Asian community for founding the Topu Honis Shelter to support impoverished children and orphans, is now facing charges of sexual abuse, child pornography and domestic violence with a maximum punishment of up to 20 years in prison.
The case involves more than a dozen women who claim they were abused by Richard years ago at the shelter in Oecusse. In the Southeast Asian country where 97% of the people are Catholic and the church is a powerful institution, which offered protection during the Indonesian occupancy until 1999, the sexual abuse case involving the respected priest split the East Timor community.
The media is barred from attending the hearing, which started yesterday and is expected to end tomorrow. Due to the pandemic, the trial was postponed several times and Richard is now turning into the hearing by video from Dili. A report from AFP says at least 15 women who claim they were abused when they were children are expected to testify. The victims suspect there are many more who were abused at the shelter but fear retribution if they come forward.
Richard has lived in East Timor since the mid-1970s and founded the Topu Honis Shelter in the early 1990s. The Vatican defrocked Richard back in 2018. The sexual abuse accusations weren’t made public until a year later when the case was reported in the news. He is now on house arrest. The United States has also filed an Interpol Red Notice saying he is wanted on 3 counts of wire fraud.