The Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court on Thursday sentenced former French judge and child-protection NGO director Philippe Broaly to 14 months in prison for sexually abusing five boys in his care, but will allow him to walk free within weeks after suspending five months of the sentence, officials said Friday.
The 50-year old was arrested by anti-trafficking police in October and charged with indecently assaulting the boys after a tip-off by a former teacher at the NGO Enfants du Cambodge sparked an investigation into its director.
Deputy prosecutor Ros Saram said the court convicted Mr. Broaly on the original charges and fined him 6 million riel, or about $5,500, but cut short the time he would spend in jail.
“The court has sentenced [Mr. Broaly] to 14 months imprisonment but he will only serve eight months and 15 days [as] the rest of the sentence was suspended,” Mr. Saram said.
The investigation, led by anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), turned up evidence that the Frenchman had exploited his authority as a guardian for up to seven years.
A lawyer of the victims, Chea Nara, said the leniency shown by the court to a convicted child abuser was unsettling.
“I think the sentence is negligible, because there were five [separate counts] of aggravated sexual assault committed by the defendant on his victims,” Mr. Nara said, adding that he was considering whether to appeal the decision.
The defendant’s lawyer, Heng Rithy, also said the decision was an injustice, but for different reasons.
“[T]here was no evidence to accuse my client and he did not commit the crimes,” Mr. Rithy said. “He has helped many children in Cambodia.”
Presiding Judge Plong Visal could not be reached for comment.
The director of the provincial department of social affairs, Seng Sovann, said Enfant Du Cambodge had been shut down since the director’s arrest.
Mr. Broaly’s case is the latest in which a director of an NGO set up to protect vulnerable children has been convicted or charged with abusing children. In March, APLE investigated its own former director, Hang Vibol, who has been arrested and charged with abusing boys at his orphanage, Our Home.
According to APLE, it has carried out at least 100 investigations into alleged abuse involving NGO staff just in the past year.
APLE director Samleing Seila said the lenient sentence handed down to Mr. Broaly would not deter offenders, and said no explanation had been given for the suspended sentence or decision not to deport the Frenchman.
“The sentencing itself should be a deterrent. In this case, he was convicted of five offenses over a period of seven years at an institution in which the victims were under his authority,” Mr. Seila said.
“This is clearly a big problem in Cambodia, but this sentence will not deter, and does not reflect the trauma and huge impact these crimes will have on his five young victims,” he said.