Cambodia’s Supreme Court granted bail Wednesday to Swiss sex-crime suspect Rudolph Knuchel, who was arrested in January and charged with acts of debauchery against under-age boys in Siem Reap town.
Though Knuchel had been allowed to stay at home since March because of health reasons, the decision to officially release the Swiss national was greeted with anger by a child rights worker who claimed the suspect could now leave Cambodia.
Chanthol Oung, director of the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, said after the hearing the man’s passport was not taken.
“The ambassador of Switzerland in Bangkok came here a few weeks ago and told me that [Knuchel] has been given his passport back already,” said Chanthol Oung. According to Chanthol Oung, the bail decision was based on the court’s belief that Knuchel does not have a passport.
Investigating Judge Tan Senarong confirmed Wednesday that the neither the Siem Reap court nor provincial immigration police have Knuchel’s passport.
“I am surprised at the [Supreme Court] decision,” Tan Senarong said.
However, Dy Borima, Knuchel’s lawyer, said Wednesday that his client has no intention to flee Cambodia as he intends to fight the charges against him.
“I cannot say yet if [Knuchel] will win the case or not. But I have much evidence and witnesses to prove that my client is not guilty,” said Dy Borima, adding that the trial should take place next month.
Chanthol Oung also criticized the Supreme Court’s handling of five witnesses called to appear at Wednesday’s hearing.
According to Chanthol Oung, the five boys and young men ranging in ages from 14 to 20 were unable to properly answer a question put to them by the court because the questions were phrased in a highly technical manner.
“The children didn’t understand….Even older people if they did not go to law school they would not understand,” said Chanthol Oung, adding that the case highlighted the need for a juvenile court in Cambodia.
Commenting on the bail, one young witness said his experience testifying at the Supreme Court was discouraging.
“This is the first time I have been in this situation. I felt frightened, I panicked,” said the youth, who claims Knuchel lured him into a sexual relationship when he was 16 years old.