The trial of a 25-year-old Ukrainian man accused of abusing 118 Czech girls from across the country, including many well below the legal age of consent, began on Tuesday in the District Court of Česká Lípa. His youngest alleged victim was eight years old.
According to the indictment, Andrij Buchalo (Andriy Bukhalo) stands accused of various changes relating to the sexual abuse of minors and production of child pornography. If convicted, he faces up to eight years in prison and compulsory psychiatric treatment.
“I wrote to girls over the internet but did not know how old they were or who they were. I knew them only by their [online] nicknames and through chatting with them,” he told the Czech news agency ČTK, denying that he is a pedophile. “I was not looking for children. I chose the girls by their looks, and they looked older.”
Police began to investigate Buchalo, who was granted temporary residence in the northern Bohemian city of Mladá Boleslav, after the father of a girl he had chatted with contacted them. Buchalo had contacted hundreds of girls through Czech social networks like Lide.cz and Libimseti.cz, soliciting photos and luring them into sexual activities, according to prosecutors.
He was arrested and put into custody in May 2010 but released in December that year pending trial. Buchalo is due to testify on Wednesday. Although Buchalo said he does not believe he has a problem, he has voluntarily sought therapy, ČTK reported. The process is open to the public.
The production and distribution of child pornography soared in the Czech Republic in 2011 with a 48 percent increase in cases registered with the police, according to the police. So-called “moral” offenses, including child pornography, which were up 15.2 percent overall compared with 2010.