[UPDATE: Didier van den Hoven was released from detainment by police on Tuesday, July 29, 2008, pending an investigation. Accusations that the actor had sexual contact with a second minor were withdrawn - More information below]
A Belgian-born actor who resides in Colombia and has been a cast member in three of the most-watched Spanish-language television soap operas in the Unites States in the last few years ("La Tormenta," "Pasion de Gavilanes," and, most recently, "El Zorro"), was detained Friday in Chile on charges that he engaged in sexual relations with two underage males.
42 year old Didier van den Hove, who was on vacation in the southern city of Puerto Natales, was arrested at the Índigo Hotel - where he had arranged to meet the two teens - and was accused of "carnal access to a minor between 14 and 18 years of age" - which carries a prison sentence of up to three years.
In an interview with van den Hove's lawyer Hermann Klasen published today in El Magallanes, he says that the actor is at peace with the knowledge that his television career is over but hopes that he will still be able to act in the big screen ("'My career in television is finished', the actor confessed to his lawyer"). His main concern, the lawyer says, is the impact of the scandal on his 9 year old son.
Klasen also tells the paper that the actor considers that the charges and the media coverage has been exaggerated as much as there was consent between all parties and that homosexuality is not prohibited in Chile. The actor, his lawyer says, also feels offended that he was taken out of court in hand-cuffs and with a yellow jacket that read "Charged."
Klasen said that van den Hoven has denied any interest in child pornography and that he hopes to be set free after a court hearing being held this evening.
La Nacion reports today that both teens were 17 years of age and that van den Hoven considered one of them to be his boyfriend ("Detained actor of 'El Zorro' plays his luck in Natales").
La Nacion Dominicana also reports today that the Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MoVILH), a national Chilean LGBT-rights organization, is backing van den Hoven ("Homosexual group protests detention of Colombian actor in Chile") pointing out that the national age of consent for heterosexual partners is 14 years of age while that of homosexual partners is 18 which MoVIHL says is discrimination.
In a Telemundo online chat from 2005, van den Hove was asked by fans if he was married and he replied that he had never married but did have a son.
Update (July 29, 2008): Today's El Magallanes reports that van den Hover was released from detention yesterday on his own recognizance and ordered to stay in Puerto Natales ("Belgian-Colombian actor regains liberty, but was left charged").
The actor was accused of having sexual relations with a minor under 18 years of age and of possessing "pornographic materials" depicting minors but only charged with the latter charge (no mention of previous reports that van den Hove had sexual relations with a second minor). He will have to remain in Chile for a period of two months while the fiscal office conducts an investigation.
The court stated that a computer had been confiscated from the accused and that they will be looking to see if it contains pornographic images involving minors or indications that the actor had paid for sex an accusation that the actor's lawyer completely denied.
van den Hove, when given an opportunity to respond to these charges told the court that "When we speak of underage pornographic material, we have to be very explicit on those points, there are many photos of myself as an adolescent and of my son, my brother, even photos of when I was a baby."
He also told the court that it was absolutely false that he had paid money for sex and that he was astounded by the accusation. "At no point am I denying my sexual condition,' he said, "but I would like you to be more explicit [on the charges]."
Outside the court, the actor standing next to his lawyer, told reporters that he had carried a six-month relationship with the minor and that they had met through a friend in common and said that he didn't consider that their relationship was a crime.
"To moralize about sexuality is such a complex subject," he said," "I have to laugh a little because we know nothing about the issue, science has not set the last word; If we speak about sexuality how much do we know to be able to legislate about it, what is good and what is bad? One thing is clear to me and this is that abuse is wrong. Laws about sexual crimes are very delicate."
In the meantime, in an article published yesterday in Diario Electronico de La Patagonia after the ruling ("MoVILH denounces the case of the actor before the UN"), an unnamed representative from MoVILH is quoted as saying that the law is the law and that charges will be imposed whether tey like it or not but that they are concerned that the court has also called for the two-month investigation based on mere suspicions that the relationship between the actor and the 17 year old indicates an interest in paedophilia. They also highlight that the court recognized that there was no other sexual contact between the actor and a second minor, as previous reports had specuilated.
MoVILH also reminded reporters of the 2000 wedding between Chilean tennis player Marcelo Ríos and Giuliana Sotela, noting that he had been 23 years of age while she had been 15 years of age.
"No one suspected in this case, and in so many others, that Ríos had any links to paedophilia or with underage pornographic material," MoVILH stated, "On the contrary, the union was celebrated nation wide."
They said that they would bring the discriminatory age of consent law before the United Nations tribunal.