British Sex Offender May Be Released Early

Officials at Kandal prison and the Kandal provincial court said Wednesday they are seeking to reduce the sentence of convicted British sex offender John Keeler, who was convicted of debauchery in November 2000 and sentenced to a three-year prison term.

The request for Keeler’s early release, along with 22 other prisoners, was made by prison director Muong Sam Ath, who said Keeler has conducted himself in an exemplary manner.

Keeler, 57, a former English teacher in Phnom Penh, was convicted after making video tapes of young girls exposing themselves and committing lewd acts in a public park in Takh­mau.

“He has redressed himself well and has stopped making problems,” Muong Sam Ath said. “Particularly he has done a good thing by teaching English to the prisoners and prison guards. Most of my policemen can speak English quite well, and this is an achievement. [Keeler] is a good teacher.”

Muong Sam Ath said the re­duction in the sentences of the 23 prisoners would range from six to 12 months.

The prison director said Keeler asked the British Embassy to do­nate a $1,400 generator to the prison. The prison received a generator, although it could not be confirmed Wednesday who do­nated it.

British Ambassador Stephen Bridges declined to comment on Keeler’s case, saying that it was a “consular affair” and thus against the embassy’s policy to comment.

Kandal province prosecutor Chheng Phat said he received the request for the sentence reductions and will give it to the Ministry of Justice for review before it is passed on to the Royal Palace. King Norodom Sihanouk will consider it among the amnes­ties that he hands down annually during the Khmer New Year.

Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua opposes Keeler’s ear­ly release. “I am very concerned and am not in favor of letting [Keeler] out of prison,” she said. “If he is let out, the government should think very seriously about letting him stay in Cambodia, and if he were allowed to stay in Cam­bodia I would take the issue up with the prime minister.”

The Evening Herald of Dublin, Ireland, reported in March 2000 that Keeler had committed sex offenses in both Ireland and Eng­land. Keeler was the first foreigner to be convicted of a sex offense and sentenced to a long prison term in Cambodia.

It is widely suspected that numerous sex offenders have quietly slipped through the porous Cambodian justice system.

Last March, Keeler’s sister, Mavis Roper, appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen to release him in exchange for the payment of a fine. The request was made through the British Embassy and was subsequently rejected by the Ministry of Justice.

 

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