- Associated Press - Sunday, June 14, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The federal trial of a 20-year-old Oklahoma man accused of sexually abusing several children at a Kenyan orphanage is entering its second week, when defense witnesses - including the defendant himself - are expected to testify.

Testimony resumes Monday in the trial of Matthew Lane Durham, who is charged with sexual misconduct while serving as a volunteer at the Upendo Children’s Home in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi between April and June 2014.

Durham, of Edmond, has pleaded not guilty to 17 charges including aggravated sexual abuse and engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison.

Federal prosecutors began questioning witnesses on June 10, a day after a 12-member jury was selected to decide Durham’s guilt or innocence. Several children from the Kenyan orphanage who traveled to the U.S. for Durham’s trial have testified in private after U.S District Judge David Russell granted a prosecution motion to shield them from the public and the media.

The children, who speak Swahili, were expected to testify through an interpreter.

Prosecutors have also presented evidence to Durham’s jury that he presented handwritten, signed confessions to officials at the Kenyan orphanage who accused him of misconduct - statements that Durham’s defense attorney, Stephen Jones, has said was coerced and given under duress.

“I would take her to the bathroom at night and hold her down and rape her. This happened on several occasions,” said one statement that was displayed to jurors during the testimony of Josphine Wambugu, manager of the orphanage and the children’s caretaker.

“At night I took him to the bathroom and had him perform oral sex on me,” states another handwritten statement.

An Upendo official provided the statements to the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, according to a government affidavit. But Jones has challenged their credibility, stating they were coerced by orphanage officials who kept Durham in isolation and confiscated his passport. He has said Durham will testify in his own defense during his trial.

During his opening statement to the jury, Jones described Durham as “an emotionally vulnerable teenager” who confessed to crimes he did not commit. Jones said Durham was struggling with “sexual identity and development” while also being a devout Christian.

Jones said that the orphanage, upon hearing the allegations, initially did not notify police, medical officials or the U.S. Embassy, and that others who lived in the Upendo home did not witness any wrongdoing alleged to have occurred.

“They never saw anything in the close confines,” Jones said. “There are no crimes.”

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