Former priest faces prison for child sex abuse in Central African Republic and Belgium

Luk Delft, the former Salesian priest exposed as a paedophile by US broadcaster CNN, appeared before a Belgian judge on Tuesday. Delft is accused of sexually abusing children in the Central African Republic (CAR) and Belgium, and of possessing child pornography. The prosecutor is seeking a 40-month prison sentence.

The alleged abuse by Delft in the CAR came to light after an investigation by CNN. A local victim testified to being abused by Delft in an interview. The Belgian public prosecutor launched an investigation, which was carried out by Caritas International in the CAR.

The Salesian order had been aware of Delft's sexual misconduct since 2001. After the first complaints were dealt with internally, a Belgian court sentenced Delft to an 18-month suspended prison sentence in 2012. He was also banned from having custody of or working with children for 10 years. 

With the approval of the Belgian court, Delft was then sent to the CAR to perform what was supposed to be a purely administrative job. But he spent three-quarters of his time there "on the road" and not in the office, according to a statement read out by the prosecutor on Tuesday. His base was next to a school attended by more than 1,500 children.

Delft was sent back to Belgium shortly after the CNN story broke, prompting a Belgian victim to come forward. The boy attended a boarding school in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre where Delft taught from 2005 to 2007. He said he was drugged, assaulted and raped by Delft.

Other boys said they knew what Delft was doing, and one took matters into his own hands. "You were beaten by a boy who had the bright idea to rashly tell you what he thought of you," prosecutor Sarah Callewaert told the defendant.

"There is no reason to doubt the victim's testimony," Callewaert argued before the Criminal Court of Leuven on Tuesday. She called the argument that the victim in the CAR would "say anything for money" despicable. In addition to the prison sentence, she asked the court to sentence Delft to 10 years' supervision and a 15-year ban on having authority over minors.

The defence argued that there was insufficient evidence in the case file and asked for an acquittal. Delft only admitted to possessing child pornography. 



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