An Italian citizen arrested in June 2001 on charges of sexually abusing four young boys gave an ultimatum in Phnom Penh’s municipal court Friday, telling the judge that he is willing to pay compensation to the victims families, but only if the judge aquits him.
“I agree to pay compensation, but the court must pardon me and allow me to stay in Cambodia, if not, I will not pay a single cent,” said the defendant, Alain Berruti. “If the court’s decision is not in favor of me I will not pay a single cent to anyone.”
Under Cambodian law, Berruti faces between 10 and 20 years behind bars. Chief Judge Nop Sophon said that he needed time to consider his verdict and that he will announce his decision next Friday.
Berruti, 29, an electrician from Milan, Italy, was arrested when police spotted him naked with the boys by the Tonle Sap river.
On Friday he denied having anal sex with the boys, aged 11 to 15, but admitted to paying them for other sexual acts and said that the boys propositioned him.
The boys, however, told a different story. They all said that Berruti did have sex with them and that it was Berruti who propositioned them. They said he paid them each $3 per encounter.
The boys all claimed that they were recruited by an older boy, Chey Vannak, who stood guard while Berruti allegedly assaulted them. Chey Vannak was scheduled to appear as a witness, but was not present at the trial.
Berruti admitted to having sexual relations with Chey Vannak He claimed that the sexual contact with the boys was consensual and that the boys make their living in this fashion.
Berruti’s lawyer, Chhor Lithay, dismissed medical reports proving his client had sexual intercourse with the boys, saying they were not performed by the proper authorities and the boys could have had an encounter with another man.
The parents of the four young victims asked that Berruti compensate them for his crimes.
“I demand compensation of $3,000. The ruling [on his sentence] is up to the court,” said the mother of one of the victims.
Chhor Lithay also appealed to the judge to release Berruti because he has been detained longer that the six-month pre-trial detention period. “My client has been behind bars for 12 months and 20 days, and I request that he is released,” he said.
Berruti appeared before the court April 5, but the trial was delayed when he refused the services of his court appointed lawyer on grounds that she was a woman. At the time, Nop Sophon declared that a new trial was to take place within two weeks.
In his closing statement to the court, Berruti was unrepentant. “I don’t destroy the life of anybody,” he said. “Why has somebody destroyed my life. I never forced anybody to do anything.”
Cambodia’s weak judiciary and police force have made it an attractive destination for pedophiles, but so far Brit John Keeler is the only foreign national convicted on sex charges.
He was arrested for making indecent videotapes of young girls in 2000 and is currently serving a three year prison term. The debauchery trial of another Italian national, Luigi Falchi, is pending in Banteay Meanchey province.