A 13-year-old boy who was held in pre-trial detention for more than eight months on charges of stealing was sentenced to eight months and 10 days in prison by Ratanakkiri Provincial Court Friday, court officials said.
Sev Tong, a member of the Jarai ethnic minority, was convicted of stealing 12 brass gongs, which are used in ethnic minority ceremonies, from a village in the province’s Bokeo district, Judge An Samnang said.
Having spent eight months and six days in prison already, An Samnang said he sentenced the boy to eight months and 10 days, commencing from the day of his arrest last year, meaning that Sev Tong will be released in a couple of days.
He added that the boy should not have been prosecuted in the first place, as he was 12 years old when arrested, which is under the age that Cambodian law allows for criminal prosecution.
The court’s prosecutor, Mey Sokhan, had been too busy to drop the case against the boy, An Samnang said.
“The prosecutor was alone and he was busy. He could not do it on time because there were many cases,” he said.
Legal Aid of Cambodia lawyer Ny Chandy, who represented Sev Tong, said the conviction was illegal as the case stemmed from a charge brought against a 12-year-old.
“If someone is below 13 years old, they can’t be charged and detained. It is a serious violation of the law and human rights, Ny Chandy said.
Sev Tong and four other youths had been detained at the provincial prison since September 2006, he added.
Prosecutor Mey Sokhan defended his prosecution when he was contacted by telephone, claiming that he went ahead with case when the boy confessed to him that he was in fact 15 years old.
“He confessed to me and the police that he was 15 years old,” he said. “He was 15 years old,” he added, before declining to comment further.