A British charity worker who has served 11 years behind bars for child abuse in Albania is to be set free after his accusers admitted they lied in court.
David Brown, now 66, from Edinburgh, in Scotland, was handed a 20-year sentence after two boys who were residents in a home he ran for troubled children testified against him.
But now the ‘victims’, aged 18 and 22, have come forward to say they lied because police and a psychologist pressured them into making false allegations.
Both accusers said are ready to admit their original lies in court – a move which will lead to Brown’s freedom.
A total of 10 boys gave evidence against Brown’s co-accused Dino Christodoulou, 52, already a convicted paedophile, and Robin Arnold, 63.
Brown, who has always protested his innocence, believes his nightmare in the Albanian capital of Tirana may be coming to an end.
Speaking from his jail cell to the Daily Record, he said he will stay in Albania to pick up the pieces of his work when he is released.
The first of the two witnesses who gave evidence against Brown, Andon Qoshlli, now 22, confirmed he wants to retract the evidence he gave in court as an 13-year-old.
He said: “The psychologist and investigating police officer on this case pushed me to say that David abused me. He did not and I am sorry he is in prison.
“I want to see him out and hug him. David took us off the street and sent us to school.”
Andon’s mother Luisa, 53, said she was not with her son when he gave his evidence.
She said: “David should not be in prison. He saved the life of my son and Andon has told me time and time again that it was Dino who abused him.
“We were a poor family and I could not have the financial means to help my children grow up.”
Now 18, second witness Denis Aliu claims he was a terrified six-year-old when he was bullied by police into saying he was also abused by Brown.
Denis, who was taken from a dire life on the streets of the Yzberisht district of Tirana to Brown’s home, said: “David should not be in prison. I was young at the time and told the court what the psychologist told me to say.
“She gave me presents like footballs, sweets, lunches and money, all to make me happy so I would tell the court what they wanted.
“I use to call David a father. I know I have made a big mistake and I want to go to court to correct that.”
Denis said he was coached by the state psychologist before giving evidence.
He added: “The moment before I was giving evidence, the psychologist said ‘Go, say what I have told you.’” Denis also spoke of his guilt at David’s 11 years of hell in prison.
He said: “I have a huge guilt on me and I want to make things right and help set him free.”
Brown’s lawyer Gjystina Golloshi said: “The evidence of both boys was very thin and it was given after they suffered intimidation and manipulation from the police and prosecutors.
“They have both now retracted all accusations against David Brown and are very sorry for the time he has spent in prison for something he didn’t do.
“Without their accusations there is basically no case against David and the authorities will have no choice but to set him free after the High Court hears all the evidence.”
Golloshi said prosecutors have failed to attend a series of hearings that should pave the way for his release within a year, including a date last Thursday.
She added: “We now have a date to appear alongside the two boys at the High Court on March 20 to hear their new testimonies, which is possible as they are both over 18.”
Golloshi said Andon told the court at the original trial he was never abused by Brown but the judge did not consider the evidence.
She said: “He was asked to appear the next day and when he was asked again and all he said was, ‘Yes, David has abused me’.
“The judge only considered this second testimony but he should have requested that Andon be re-examined.”
Brown travelled to Albania in 2000 after becoming involved in the Scottish aid efforts for refugees crossing the border to escape the war in Kosovo.
He encountered neglected Roma children begging on the streets and supported them with food and money.
The following year, with support from churches in Albania and the UK, he opened an orphanage which – after claiming to have received instructions from God – Brown named His Children.Missionaries affiliated with Christian churches as far away as Oklahoma travelled to Tirana to care for the children and give Bible lessons.
At his trial, several youngsters testified in his defence.
Brown worked with children for 35 years in Scotland and was a Children’s Panel chairman for many years.
The charity worker admitted being naive in failing to check the backgrounds of all the volunteers who had unsupervised access to children.
After the whistle was blown on abuse in 2006, Albanian police and social services raided the orphanage and arrested Brown. Ten boys, aged between four and 13, told police they had been sexually abused by one or more of the three Britons, who were charged with “homosexual relations with minors”.
In some cases, the children claimed to have been bound to a balcony, gagged and raped.
Christodoulou, a nurse from Blackburn, Lancashire, and Arnold, a salesman from Cromer, Norfolk, were both extradited from the UK and tried two years after Brown’s conviction.
Christodoulou, who had been convicted of child abuse in Britain, was given 20 years and Arnold was jailed for 15-and-a-half years.
Brown, who has been behind bars since 2006, previously appealed against his conviction at Albania’s High Court but it was rejected.
He has been held in the 302 Mine Peza high security jail in Tirana, where he is the only foreigner among 300 inmates.
The general prosecutor office of Albania did not respond to our requests for comment.
Albert Malaj, director of 302 Mine Peza, said: “David Brown is a devoted person. Every day he receives more than 10 letters from his supporters from different countries.
“This is something unique for a prisoner in Albanian prison.”
Despite the revelations, Brown is likely to remain behind bars for another year before being freed.
The court in Tirana will have to hear new testimonies from the two boys. The evidence will then be referred to five judges at the High Court of Albania who will then have to order a review.
The criminal court will then be asked to make a decision on the new evidence.