Timor-Leste police arrest US former priest for sex abuse

Pressure from children's rights advocates forces authorities to take orphanage founder Richard Dascbach into custody
Timor-Leste police arrest US former priest for sex abuse

Timor-Leste police have arrested American-born former priest Richard Daschback for allegedly abusing young girls at the Topu Honis orphanage he founded in Kutet, in Timor-Leste’s Oecusse district. (Photo supplied)

Police have arrested a former priest dismissed by the Vatican following accusations he sexually abused young girls in Timor-Leste.

Richard Dascbach, 82, who has reportedly admitted abusing children at Topu Honis orphanage he founded in Kutet in Oecusse district was arrested on April 26, according to according to Portuguese-language Agência Lusa and confirmed by a local source.

The former Divine Word Society priest was taken to custody following mounting pressure from child activists and families of alleged victims, who expressed outrage he had been allowed to return last year to the orphanage he had founded, after the abuses came to light.

Doubts were expressed over the Timor-Leste’s government commitment to pursuing the case.

"I am relieved to hear he has finally been arrested,” a source and long-time supporter of the orphanage told ucanews.com on April 29.

“Justice has taken over a year in coming when the scandal broke,” said the source, who did not wish to be named.

However, many people in the community are still supportive of the former priest, because he is considered a “hero” for his contribution in the 1999 war of independence against Indonesia.

During the war, Dashbach led a local militia in protecting the locality and provided support for the community in many ways, including dispensing medicine and food to families in need.

“He is even considered to have magical abilities and thus the people both revere and fear him. All of this makes the local people not want to believe the allegations,” the source said.

Before being taken away, police allowed him to say goodbye to the community, which was recorded in a video circulated on Facebook.

The source added that the new orphanage director, Liliana Tarung, was also arrested for attacking a former resident who she suspected of having reported the abuse.

It wasn’t clear who was looking after the orphanage in her absence.

Daschbach’s arrest came after Fokupers, a Timorese advocacy group that supports women and children, published an interview with a victim who gave details about the abuse last week.

The victim, who was 8 years old when she first went to the orphanage, said she and her friends were asked to sleep in the same bed as Daschbach, who she said would sexually abuse them.

She said they were afraid and respected him so they did what he wanted.

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The girl also said the former priest would post a list of names on his door of girls who he wanted to abuse.

“It happened every day during his afternoon naps and at night," she said, adding that Daschbach often targeted orphanage newcomers and little girls.

Police officials could not be reached for comment.

Born in Pittsburg, Daschbach was laicized by the Vatican in November following a church investigation.

He established Topu Honis in 1993 to provide care for homeless children, as well as disabled adults, and women fleeing domestic abuse.

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