The trial of a former US priest accused of child abuse in Timor-Leste due to resume tomorrow at the Oecusse Court has been postponed until May 24, according to judicial sources.
The president of the Court of Appeal, Deolindo dos Santos, confirmed the postponement to Lusa news agency, explaining that he was asked by the lawyers for the defendant, Richard Daschbach. He was concerned with the current conditions due to the covid-19 sanitary lockdown in the Timorese capital.
The judge explained that the rules of the lockdown obliged anyone who has to travel to present negative covid-19 tests, and that the conduct of the trial required the trip to the Oecusse enclave of one of the judges hearing the case, the translator, the lawyers of defence and the defendant, members of the Public Prosecutor's Office and other parties involved.
"An application was made for the defendant's defence to the Oecusse Court, which notified the Public Ministry to respond. The court received this response and issued an order to postpone it until May 24," said dos Santos.
Daschbach, who is under house arrest in Dili, began trial in February for crimes of child abuse, child pornography and domestic violence.
The trial, which is closed to the public, had two sessions scheduled on March 22 and 23.
Daschbach was expelled from the Congregation of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) in East Timor and from the priesthood by the Vatican for the "committed and admitted abuse of minors" in an orphanage in the country, Topu Honis.
"SVD Timor-Leste wants to emphatically reiterate that based on the heinous crime committed and admitted of child abuse at the Topu Honis orphanage, Mr Richard Daschbach was expelled, after an ecclesiastical criminal process, from the religious and clerical state by the Congregation for Doctrine da Fe, in the Vatican, on November 6, 2018," said a recent communique of the organisation.
Deolindo dos Santos told Lusa that given the evolution of the cases of covid-19 and with sanitary fences in effect, the judiciary was working to "enable judgments to take place at a distance" by video conferencing.