Club Owner Is Cleared of Pimping Charges

The French owner of a Phnom Penh bar has been cleared of charges he was pimping waitresses, a municipal judge said Sun­day.

There was insufficient evidence that Zerinini Hassen, 49, was organizing prostitution at Le Cyrcee Club, a bar frequented by Western tourists and expatriates, Investi­gating Judge Nop Sophon said.

Reached by phone, Hassen said the charges against him were born of a personal vendetta aimed at destroying his business, but he would not elaborate. He said he was released from jail Thursday, and denied that any employee at Le Cyrcee was forced into having sex. “It was a set-up to make me lose my business,” he said.

Hassen was arrested May 18 after two former employees complained that he had coerced them in­to sex acts with customers and then fired them without pay. The girls complained to the NGO Afe­sip, which asked police to investigate. Nop Sophon said he dropped the charges against Hassen after interviewing other waitresses at Le Cyrcee, who refuted the girls’ stories. An investigation turned up no further evidence to substantiate their claims, he said.

The judge said Afesip was too quick to accuse Hassen.

“They cause a lot of trouble,” Nop Sophon said. “This is not a good organization.”

Afesip Director Pierre Legros withheld comment Sunday, saying he had just returned to Cam­bodia after several weeks abroad. The NGO will respond to Has­sen’s release and Nop Sophon’s comments today, he said.

Hassen’s release comes on the heels of a US citizen’s release from jail June 11. Blake Alan Respini, 47, a teacher from the US state of California, was arrested early this year in Battambang province and accused of having sex with underage boys, but the provincial court threw out the charge for lack of evidence.

Two other foreigners, Aust­ralian David Ford and US citizen Charles Landis, were released from jail in recent weeks following accusations of debauchery.


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