Richard Daschbach speaks to a policeman at the Oecusse district court on Feb. 22. The defrocked priest has been accused of threatening to kill the lawyer of alleged sexual abuse victims. (Photo: YouTube)
A defrocked priest in Timor-Leste on trial for sexual abuse has been accused of threatening to kill the lawyer of his alleged victims.
JU,S Jurídico Social Consultoria, the legal advocacy group representing 17 alleged victims, said the threat was made by Richard Daschbach to one of its partners, Barbara Oliveira, at the Oecusse district court on July 13.
The group said the US-born former Divine Word priest made the threat in the court’s waiting area.
“Daschbasch ... stood right in front of her while she remained sitting … and clearly uttered in English, ‘Barbara, you know we are going to kill you,’” a spokesman for the lawyers’ group said, adding that the threat was heard by a police officer.
JU,S said Oliveira has submitted a formal complaint to the police.
“JU,S has been informed that the Timor-Leste National Police (PNTL) will … strengthen security to ensure that its members can continue its work,” the spokesman said.
That he would threaten to kill somebody so openly in a courthouse is quite shocking; he will stop at nothing to silence his victims
A source close to the alleged victims and Oliviera told UCA News that the incident was the latest in a series of threats, mostly made online, targeting the lawyer.
“Despite everything we now know and understand about Daschbach's true nature, I was still shocked to hear about this threat,” the source said.
“That he would threaten to kill somebody so openly in a courthouse is quite shocking; he will stop at nothing to silence his victims.”
Miguel Faria, Daschbach's lawyer, told Portuguese news agency Lusa that he did not know about the threat as he was in the courtroom when it was allegedly made.
Daschbach, 84, is accused of sexually abusing young girls at the Topu Honis shelter in Kutet, Oecusse, which he founded in 1993.
He is also charged with child pornography and domestic violence and faces up to 20 years in prison. He is also wanted in the United States for alleged wire fraud.
His trial resumed on July 5 after a series of postponements due to him using Covid-19 social restrictions as an excuse not to appear before judges. Proceedings are expected to end on July 30
Although he was sacked by the Vatican in 2018 after "an in-depth investigation" during which he was declared to have confessed to crimes, he continues to enjoy support in a country where many still consider him a hero for helping in the fight for independence from Indonesia.
His supporters have taken to social media to launch attacks on his alleged victims and those who support them, including NGOs and the country's public prosecutor.
One of his main supporters is Xanana Gusmao, the country's independence hero and former prime minister and president who in a statement on July 12 accused prosecutors and NGOs of committing illegal, irregular and immoral actions.