Taiwanese monk jailed for sexually abusing pupils

AFP, Jul 28, 2007

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- A monk has been jailed for eleven-and-a-half years for sexually abusing eight boys, a court official said yesterday, bringing an end to the long-running scandal.

Shih Chih-hao, who ran a Buddhist academy in Taipei County, was found guilty of molesting and sexually assaulting the boys, all under 14 years old, said Wen Yao-yuan, spokesman for the Taiwan High Court.

The scandal erupted in 2000 when police began investigating allegations by some 25 pupils at the academy -- a shelter for abused, runaway and impoverished boys -- that they were sexually abused by Shih.

The boys reportedly said they were molested by Shih during meditation sessions or forced to have sex with him while they were taking baths.

In 2002 the Taipei District Court sentenced Shih to 12 years in jail. He appealed the ruling to the High Court, which upheld the previous verdict in 2004.

Shih, who claimed innocence, later appealed to the Supreme Court which ordered a new trial. The High Court on Thursday handed down a guilty verdict, but reduced the prison term to 11 years and six months plus mandatory therapy.

The 43-year-old monk first caught public attention when he took his pupils to a graveyard and told them to sit on tombs and meditate to overcome their fear of death.

The Buddhist academy, which had sheltered some 30 boys since its opening in 1999, was shut down after the scandal came to light.