Boy, 13, Stuck In Prison After New Appeal

A 13-year-old boy in Ratanakkiri province convicted of stealing gongs will have his stay in prison extended because a provincial court prosecutor has appealed the judge’s decision that should have led to his release, officials said Tuesday.

Sev Tong, a member of the Jarai ethnic minority group, was only 12 when he was arrested in Septem­ber and charged with the theft of 12 brass gongs. Despite being too young to be charged with a crime, he spent eight months and six days in pretrial detention before being convicted on Friday.

Provincial Court Judge An Sam­nang sentenced Sev Tong to eight months and 10 days in prison be­ginning from the start of his detention. Given that sentence, Sev Tong was scheduled to leave prison Tuesday, but he remains there be­cause of the appeal, said the boy’s lawyer, Ny Chandy of Legal Aid for Cambodia.

By law, if a prosecutor appeals a judge’s decision, the defendant must stay in detention until the appeal hearing, even if he has been acquitted.

“When there is an appeal, there is no set time to hold the [appeal] hearing,” Ny Chandy said. “So, the detention [period] can’t be clearly set.”

Prosecutor Mey Sokhan might be appealing because the charge he brought against Sev Tong and the four adults tried alongside him was robbery, but the judge threw the charge out and convicted them of theft instead, Ny Chandy said.

The four adults were each handed sentences of one or one and a half years in prison, he added.

Mey Sokhan declined to comment, but his clerk Prak Soeun confirmed that the appeal had been made shortly after the trial ended.

An Samnang said he had drop­ped the robbery charges out of pity for the accused, who he acknowledged was too young to have been charged in the first place.

An Samnang said that he had effectively sentenced Sev Tong to four more days in prison only so there would be enough time for the appropriate paperwork to be filled out to secure the boy’s release.

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