‘Wrong­ful con­vic­tion’ in child-rape case, cana­dian in nepal claims

National Post (National Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - COLIN PERKEL

An Or­der of Canada recipient has been found guilty of sex­u­ally assaulting chil­dren in Nepal after a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion and trial his lawyers de­scribe as a trav­esty of jus­tice.

Sen­tenc­ing for Peter Dal­glish, ex­pected in about two weeks, could see the well­known aid worker jailed for as long as 13 years.

“This has been like watch­ing a wrong­ful con­vic­tion un­fold in real time,” Dal­glish’s Cana­dian lawyer, Nader Hasan, said in an in­ter­view Tues­day. “We have deep con­cerns about the process here, both from the per­spec­tive of pro­ce­dural fair­ness of the court pro­ceed­ings as well as cer­tain tac­tics taken by the po­lice and the state.”

The judge, who ren­dered his verdict late Mon­day, has yet to re­lease his rea­sons for the guilty find­ing. Dal­glish, 62, de­nies any wrong­do­ing.

Orig­i­nally from London, Ont., Dal­glish has spent years work­ing around the globe. Nepalese po­lice ar­rested him in the early hours of April 8 last year in a raid on the moun­tain home he had built in the vil­lage of Kar­tike east of the cap­i­tal of Kath­mandu.

Po­lice al­leged he had raped two Nepalese boys aged 11 and 14, who were with him.

Pushkar Karki, chief of the Cen­tral In­ves­ti­ga­tion Bureau, said at the time Dal­glish lured chil­dren from poor fam­i­lies with prom­ises of ed­u­ca­tion, jobs and trips, and then sex­u­ally abused them. Karki said other for­eign men in Nepal had also been ar­rested on suspicion of pe­dophilia.

“There have been some in­stances where they were found work­ing with char­iti es,” Karki told the New York Times. “Our laws aren’t as strict as in for­eign coun­tries, and there is no so­cial scru­tiny like in de­vel­oped coun­tries.”

Ac­cord­ing to his lawyers, the in­ves­ti­ga­tion ap­pears to have orig­i­nated with ru­mours at a school in Thai­land where Dal­glish had been a board mem­ber. They say an in­ves­ti­ga­tion found no evidence of mis­con­duct.

How­ever, a com­plaint to the RCMP dur­ing that time ap­pears to have led to an In­ter­pol “red flag,” prompt­ing Nepalese po­lice to open an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

His lawyers say in­ves­ti­ga­tors re­peat­edly ap­proached the older boy at home and school to ask about the Cana­dian. They al­lege po­lice wined and dined him, bought him school books and of­fered other in­duce­ments. While the two com­plainants ended up giv­ing damn­ing tes­ti­mony in court, they gave sev­eral ver­sions of their sto­ries at dif­fer­ent times, the de­fence as­serts.

Hasan, who said there will be an ap­peal, said the judge ig­nored “se­ri­ous flaws” in the pros­e­cu­tion case.

“There ought to have been rea­son­able doubt,” Hasan said. “The po­lice in­tim­i­da­tion tac­tics and the po­lice bribes and the po­lice threats ought to have been in­sur­mount­able evidence of not just not guilty, but of ac­tual in­no­cence.”

Hasan said the Nepalese le­gal sys­tem, which op­er­ates largely in se­crecy, bears lit­tle re­sem­blance to any­thing in Canada — or many other coun­tries. Among other prob­lems, courts do not record pro­ceed­ings or pro­duce tran­scripts, lead­ing to con­fu­sion about what wit­nesses ac­tu­ally said.

His lawyers say in one in­ci­dent, a wit­ness help­ful to the de­fence was tes­ti­fy­ing when the judge ex­cused him­self from the court­room to go eat din­ner. They say he told par­ties to carry on with­out him and he would catch up with the court clerk af­ter­wards.

Hasan said Dal­glish’s fam­ily — his ex-wife and daughter live in the Nether­lands and his brothers in On­tario — as well as friends have been stand­ing by him. In ad­di­tion, he has strong sup­port in Nepal, where two young men he had pre­vi­ously men­tored have been visit­ing him twice daily in prison in Dhu­likhel near Kath­mandu to take him food.

“Ob­vi­ously, (it) was emo­tion­ally dev­as­tat­ing for him — as it would be for any­one, par­tic­u­larly some­one who is in­no­cent,” Hasan said of the guilty find­ing. “But he’s a re­mark­ably re­silient hu­man be­ing and it’s help­ful that he has a very strong sup­port sys­tem. That helps him stay pos­i­tive.”

Dal­glish, who had spent years do­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian work in Nepal, co-founded a Cana­dian char­ity called Street Kids In­ter­na­tional in the late 1980s. He has worked for sev­eral hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies, in­clud­ing UN Habi­tat in Afghanista­n and the UN Mis­sion for Ebola Emer­gency Re­sponse in Liberia. He was named a mem­ber of the Or­der of Canada in 2016.

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