More than a year after he was extradited from Thailand to Cambodia to serve a 10-year sentence for raping a 16-year-old girl in 2009, 70-year-old British national David Fletcher, who was convicted in absentia, on Thursday had his request for a retrial rejected by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court because he failed to submit the necessary documents in time.
Mr. Fletcher, who previously ran an unregistered charity, The Rubbish Dump Project, in Phnom Penh, was arrested in Thailand in 2010 and sent back to Cambodia to face prison for raping then-16-year-old Yang Dany, one of the children his organization provided assistance to.
Outside the court Thursday, the defendant told reporters that his passport, which would have proved he was outside Cambodia at the time of the crime, was destroyed after being confiscated by the British Embassy in Bangkok. Other evidence—including a report by the court-appointed doctor who examined the victim and found her hymen intact—would exonerate him were he given the chance to defend himself, he said.
“I have evidence that proves I could not have raped Yang Dany and video interviews of her saying that I did not rape her,” Mr. Fletcher said.
In May, the Appeal Court dismissed Mr. Fletcher’s request to have his case reheard because his application was filed more than one month after the municipal court prosecutor read him the court’s verdict on October 17, 2013.
Before the hearing Thursday, the septuagenarian—whose 1997 conviction for the statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl in the U.K. was reported by British tabloids at the time of his conviction in Cambodia—said he hoped he would be given a retrial. But when he entered the courtroom at about 9 a.m., he was informed that the proceedings were only to determine whether a retrial was warranted.
After almost three hours of back and forth between Mr. Fletcher and court officials, prolonged due to the language barrier, his appeal was rejected on the same grounds as his prior one.
“The court rejects the opposition motion of David John Fletcher, dated June 30, 2014, because it exceeded the [15-day] expiration time limit for an opposition motion to be filed,” said Presiding Judge Top Chhun Heng.
Mr. Fletcher said he attempted to file both appeals in time but that documents handed to authorities in Prey Sar prison were never delivered to the courts.
“It’s like the ‘Life of Brian,’” Mr. Fletcher said after the hearing Thursday, referring to British comedy group Monty Python’s 1979 film.
Mr. Fletcher arrived at court Thursday holding a sign protesting the anti-pedophile NGOs he claims conspired to have him convicted despite his innocence, and the local blog Khmer440, whose moderators he accuses of waging a smear campaign against him.
Ms. Dany, now 22, is being represented by Sorn Sony, a lawyer from one of those NGOs, Action pour les Enfants (APLE).
On Thursday, Ms. Sony welcomed the court’s decision to deny the Briton a retrial.
“The court made the correct decision in accordance with the law, because he filed after the time limit for appealing had expired,” she said.
In an interview last month, Ms. Dany and her mother both said Mr. Fletcher had not committed rape, and that the then-16-year-old did not understand what the term “rape” meant at the time.
“My daughter told me that David asked her to go to a wine shop. Only my daughter and David were there in the shop. David asked my daughter to go to a room [in the shop] and took off her clothes,” said Keang Sokun, 66, adding that police were the first to characterize the incident as “rape.”
“APLE knew that Dany was not raped, but they did know her clothes were taken off. When I meet APLE [again], I will tell them that my daughter did not understand the word ‘rape’ when she was young; now she understands that word,” she said.
Now 22, Ms. Dany also said during the interview that Mr. Fletcher had only removed her clothes.
“He took off my clothes and I told the police that he took off my clothes,” she said, adding that APLE told her she would be awarded $5,000 in compensation if she stood by the police’s interpretation of events.
Asked about Ms. Dany’s recent admissions, APLE country director Samleang Seila said: “She has made her statement. Whether that statement is true or not is for her to defend.”
“We are simply representing her in court as she requested. She can request that we stop at any time,” he said.
Pressed for a more detailed explanation of the disputed testimony that led to Mr. Fletcher’s conviction, Mr. Seila said the time had passed for such questions.
“It is too late for that. This hearing is a matter of law, not a matter of facts. He missed the deadline.”
(Additional reporting by Hay Pisey and Matt Blomberg)