Citing a lack of evidence, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Court yesterday acquitted a 62-year-old French man accused of committing indecent acts on a 13-year-old boy, Judge Plang Samnang said.
Jean-Marie Beranger was absent when his verdict was read out as he is already serving a one-year sentence in Kampot province for his June conviction for sex crimes against two other boys.
“I decided to acquit the suspect for indecent acts because there was not enough evidence, and the answers of the victim and witness differed,” the judge said.
He also said the scene of the alleged crime was a crowded public place, making the alleged indecent acts unlikely.
Judge Samnang cited as the basis of his decision Article 351 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Article 38 of the Constitution, both of which say the accused has the benefit of the doubt.
Beranger faced a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a roughly $1,500 fine if convicted. In June, Kampot Provincial Court found him guilty of sexually molesting two boys, 14 and 16, while out on bail in the Preah Sihanouk Court case.
In last Tuesday’s Preah Sihanouk province trial, the alleged victim testified that Beranger sexually abused him and then paid him $2 in September last year. A witness told the court that he saw the suspect and the boy sitting together in a public place, but did not see anything indecent.
Samleang Seila, country director for anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfant, said yesterday he plans to ask for an appeal.
“I believe that the suspect really committed a sex crime on the victim and that the suspect gave $2 to the victim,” he said. “The verdict isn’t justice for the victim.”
Beranger’s lawyer, Khun Sophal, said the evidence presented was insufficient, and cited what he said was the divergent testimony from the alleged victim and witness.
“The verdict really is justice for my client, because I believe that he didn’t do the case,” he said.