The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Saturday charged Daniel Johnson, an American missionary, with committing indecent acts against five boys under the age of 15 at an orphanage he operated in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district, police said.
Johnson, 35, was sent to the court on Wednesday but prosecutors delayed charging him, questioning him for several days before charges were finally brought on Saturday, Seang Sok, deputy chief prosecutor, said Sunday.
“I charged him [on Saturday] under Article 43 of the Anti-Human Trafficking Law with abusing underage victims and then handed him over to the investigating judge,” he said.
Pol Pithey, director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking police department, confirmed the charges and said Johnson was now in pretrial detention.
“We sent him to Prey Sar prison [Saturday evening] after he was charged by the municipal court,” he said.
An FBI-led investigation into alleged child sex abuse committed in the U.S. tracked Johnson down to the Home of Hope orphanage in Boeng Tampun commune, which is one of a number of projects in Cambodia operated by his evangelical Christian organization, Hope Transitions.
Johnson was found residing at the unregistered orphanage, and interviews following his arrest with the 29 children and young teenagers living with him there led to the allegations he had committed abuse.
The case against him was said to be complicated because the allegations only came to light as part of the investigation by the FBI, which is seeking his extradition for crimes committed in the U.S, though police said last week that Johnson must first serve his sentence in Cambodia if he is convicted.
Johnson has been resident in Cambodia for a decade, according to Pastor Sinai Phoeuk, who is director of the government-registered Christian NGO New Hope for Orphans, to which Johnson acted as adviser for several years.
Johnson’s organization Hope Transitions also operates projects in Prey Veng and Kampot, and the next phase of the investigation is to track Johnson’s network in Cambodia, said Yi Moden, deputy director of field operations for the anti-pedophile NGO Action pour les Enfants, which has assisted the investigation.
Johnson’s alleged victims are now under the care of Hagar International.