A prominent Canadian aid worker convicted of sexually assaulting children in Nepal has been jailed for 16 years, one of his lawyers said on Monday.
In addition to the prison term, the court ordered Peter Dalglish to pay his victims the equivalent of US$5,000 each, Nader Hasan said.
“We continue to be dismayed by the trial judge’s refusal to consider the overwhelming evidence of Peter’s innocence and the inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case,” Hasan told The Canadian Press. “Peter’s family stands by him unflinchingly.”
Dalglish, an Order of Canada recipient, was convicted last month after a police investigation and trial his lawyers described as a travesty of justice. His defence said it planned to challenge the decision and stiffer-than-expected sentence, although the judge has yet to release reasons.
“We turn our attention to the appeal process in Nepal’s appellate courts,” Hassan said. “We remain confident that Peter will be exonerated.”
Originally from London, Ont., Dalglish, 62, has denied any wrongdoing.
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 at the time.
Pushkar Karki, chief of the Central Investigation Bureau, accused Dalglish of luring children from poor families with promises of education, jobs and trips, then sexually abusing 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 charities,” 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.”
Dalglish’s lawyers see it differently. They have raised a host of objections, saying the police investigation and trial was “like watching a wrongful conviction unfold in real time.” At the very least, they said, there was reasonable doubt as to their client’s guilt.
The 16-year sentence is “tremendously long” even by Nepal standards, Hasan said.
According to his lawyers, the case appears to have originated with rumours at a school in Thailand where Dalglish had been a board member. They insist a probe found no evidence of misconduct but a complaint to the RCMP appears to have led to an Interpol “red flag,” prompting Nepalese police to open their own investigation.
The defence accuses Nepalese investigators of intimidation tactics and bribing the boys to testify against him. Both complainants gave damning testimony in court but Dalglish’s lawyers say the alleged victims gave several versions of their stories at different times.
Hasan has said the Nepalese legal system operates largely in secrecy, and the courts do not record proceedings or produce transcripts, leading to confusion about what witnesses actually said.
Dalglish, who co-founded a Canadian charity called Street Kids International in the late 1980s, had spent years doing humanitarian work in Nepal. He has also 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 late 2016.
Dalglish’s family — his ex-wife and daughter live in the Netherlands and his brothers in Ontario — and friends have been standing by him, Hasan has said.
Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press