Charges Dropped Despite Girl’s Testimony

The municipal court’s president has dropped charges against a German man who said he visited the notorious Svay Pak brothel village for a massage and nothing more, court documents show.

Elmar Bernhard, 61, was re­leased last week nearly three months after police raided a brothel in Svay Pak and arrested him and a 54-year-old Japanese national for allegedly having sex with children.

Documents signed by Phnom Penh Municipal Court officials indicate the debauchery charge against Bernhard has been dropped, despite a 12-year-old girl’s testimony that he had sex with her twice.

“He is gone,” said Pierre Leg­ros, whose NGO Afesip has sheltered six girls from the brothel, identified as “Brothel No 5.” Legros said all of the girls were under the age of 15 and some were as young as 10 years old.

The documents signed by Court President Judge Sor Soph­ory and Chief Prosecutor Uk Sav­uth maintain that Bernhard was led unwittingly to Svay Pak, and that he never had sex with an un­der­age girl.

“The taxi driver told me to get a massage at a parlor in Svay Pak because he said the girls there are skilled…. After I got my massage, I was arrested by authorities for no reason,” Bernhard is quoted as saying in the document.

Other girls and a mama-san in the brothel also said the girl was older than 12 and that Bernhard did not have sex with her, the documents state.

German Embassy official Frank Ruckert said Bernhard will be allowed return to Germany. If sufficient evidence arises, he can be tried there.

On Bernhard standing trial in Cambodia, Ruckert said “That decision is up to the Cambodians.”

Legros blasted the court for releasing Bernhard.

“Some police are very good, but the justice system is still horrible,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Saing Soenthrith)

 

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