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Buddhist priest in Augsburg trial admits to child sex abuse

A man has admitted in court to sexually abusing seven boys while heading a Buddhist community in southern Germany. The abuse, which took place over a period of 10 years, involved boys aged 4 to 13.

At the start of his trial in the southern German city of Augsburg on Friday, a Zen Buddhist priest fully admitted to sexually abusing a total of seven boys over the course of a decade.

The 62-year-old man is accused of 22 cases of sexual abuse, several of which have been deemed as "severe abuse" by prosecutors. He could face up to 15 years in prison.

The defendant's lawyer, Hermann Christoph Kühn, read off an explanation of the crimes at the beginning of the trial, which the man later confirmed to be true.

"He is very ashamed of his behavior and wants to take full responsibility for it. He also wants to try and reach a settlement with the victims," Bavarian public broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk quoted Kühn as saying.

The abuse, which spanned a period of 10 years, involved victims aged between 4 and 13.

"It hurts me greatly, that I caused so much pain," the defendant told the court, according to news agency dpa.

Years of abuse

Prior to heading a Buddhist community near Augsburg, the defendant was a police officer.

Among other acts, he is accused of sexually abusing a woman's two sons after she sought out the priest for grief counseling following the death of her husband. He later started a relationship with the woman and used the familial ties to abuse her sons.

The man also sexually abused a child refugee who had declared church asylum, and in another case, he sexually abused a young drug addict.

Authorities uncovered some 2,800 files ofchild pornographywhile searching the man's house. According to court documents, he also occasionally took pornographic photos of his victims.

Presiding Judge Lenart Hoesch had rejected the defendant's initial, previous confession as unsatisfactory, saying that the priest had effectively portrayed himself as a victim whose mistake was that he never said "stop." The judge had said that such a confession would not have been sufficient to spare the victims from testifying in court about their childhood experiences. 

Over 40 witnesses had been asked to testify in the case, a statement from the court reads, but the defendant's comprehensive confession means that many are now less likely to be called to the stand. The trial is scheduled to run through early August, but may now come to an end earlier.