Belgian’s Family, Lawyer Call On French to Release DNA Evidence

The lawyer and brother of a Belgian national who was charged last week with the murder of a French woman in Kampot province have called on the French government to release the results of DNA evidence that could lead to his exoneration.

Olivier Van den Bogaert, 40, was arrested and charged Friday with the murder of 25-year-old tourist Ophelie Begnis more than two months after her body was found naked, with wounds sustained to her arms and head, on the riverbank in Kampot City on February 10.

French Embassy officials examined the body at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital soon after her death, and a team of French police, including forensic scientists, visited Kampot province in March to investigate the case following a complaint filed by the family of Ophelie Begnis to the French government.

Ian Van den Bogaert, the young­er brother of the suspect, said that all doubt of his brother’s innocence would be erased if the French government were to release forensic results he claimed had been carried out by investigators.

“The easiest way to find the truth is to compare the DNA,” Mr. Van den Bogaert said by telephone yesterday from Belgium. “It would be important to Ophelie’s family, as well as to us. The French should take responsibility and show the DNA results.”

Nicolas Baudouin, the French Embassy’s first secretary, declined to give comment on the ongoing investigation.

J.B. van Melckebeke, the lawyer for the Van den Bogaert family in Belgium, said he has been in close contact with the suspect’s lawyer in Cambodia and had found that the investigation was full of “contradictions.” For example, Olivier had no plans to flee Cambodia, and had entered into a business partnership with another Belgian man, Gunther Van den Bogaert—who is of no relation—for another guesthouse in Kampot.

“He is not a fugitive; he is not acting like a fugitive,” Mr. Van Melckebeke said.

Mr. Van Melckebeke added that an impartial and certified translator was not present when the police questioned Olivier last week when he was arrested, and the provincial prosecutor had begun questioning him on Friday before his lawyer arrived.

Meas Rin, 34, a Kampot City tour guide, confirmed Tuesday that he had “volunteered” to help with translating for Mr. Van den Bogaert.

Olivier’s business partner, Gunther, confirmed that the two had signed lease contracts on a plot of land in Kampot in order to start a guesthouse in the near future.

(Additional reporting by Kaing Menghun)

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