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American missionary gets 10-year imprisonment for sexual assault of 14-year-old Ugandan girl

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Eric Tuininga

An American missionary, Eric Tuininga, was sentenced to 10 years in a US Federal Prison after he was found guilty of defiling a 14-year-old Ugandan girl, who was under his care at the Orthodox Presbyterian church based in Mbale District.

Mr Tuininga, 45, of Milledgeville Georgia was ordered to pay $20,000(about Shs75m) in restitution by US District Judge Marc. T. Treadwell and spend a lifetime on supervised release as a registered sex offender after getting out of prison.

In February, Mr Tuininga pleaded guilty and was taken to jail pending sentencing. He faced up to 30 years in jail, according to reports at the time.

Several US media outlets reported that the recommended sentence for Mr Tuininga was seven to nine years.

However, the judge gave him a 10-year sentence after hearing testimony from the victim’s caretaker and some of Tuininga’s family members. Tuininga’s lawyer had requested a sentence of five years.

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“I want to recognise the true bravery displayed by the Ugandan girl for speaking out when she was assaulted by a trusted person of power from another country, courageously seeking justice across continents,” US Attorney Peter D. Leary is quoted in a statement.

“Law enforcement, both abroad and here at home, took on a challenging international case,” he added.

In 2019, Mr Tuininga was reported by a fellow US citizen working at the same church who contacted the US Embassy in Kampala that the now convict was having sex with Ugandan girls as young as 14 years who were under the care of their church.

The US Department of State, Bureau of Diplomatic Security federal agents in Kampala opened an investigation into the allegations and subsequently identified the abused minor, who was then aged 14, in May 2019 when Tuininga had sex with her.

Tuininga had already returned to his home in Georgia but the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, Child Exploitation Unit, Atlanta, continued with the investigations.

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“Eric Tuininga used his trusted position as a pastor to sexually assault a young Ugandan girl in his care, this was a challenging case, but law enforcement worked diligently to ensure that Tuininga did not escape justice for his crime overseas,” said US Attorney Peter D. Lear.

Mark Bube, general secretary of the denomination’s committee of foreign missions, has said Tuininga’s misconduct was reported by other Orthodox Presbyterian missionaries in Uganda and that he was removed from missionary work in 2019.

Bube said Tuininga was later removed entirely from ministry and excommunicated from the church based in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.

Tuininga joined the church from a separate but affiliated denomination in Oregon. A website chronicling Tuininga’s work in Uganda said he began working there in 2012 after working at Immanuel’s Reformed Church in Salem.

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