A border police officer in Oddar Meanchey province who was charged in July with raping a 16-year-old girl after locking her in a jail cell for 24 hours was freed by the provincial court on Friday after paying the victim’s family to drop the complaint against him, police said Sunday.
Leng Sarann, a 36-year-old officer who had worked at the Phnom Tbal checkpoint on the Thai border, was arrested on July 16 after the badly beaten girl returned home and told her family what had happened.
“He was released on Friday,” said Ket Sothea, penal police chief of Anlong Veng district.
“I don’t know why the court released him, but yesterday I met his mother and she told me the family had accepted compensation to withdraw their complaint,” he said. “Later, he called me and told me he had been freed by the order of the court.”
Provincial police chief Men Ly said he could not fathom why the court had decided to release Mr. Sarann.
“I just got this information, and we don’t understand yet why the court released him, as police had provided the court with plenty of evidence and witnesses,” he said.
Contacted by telephone Sunday, Mr. Sarann said there was nothing untoward about his release.
“The court has found justice for me, because I did not commit the crime the plaintiffs accused me of,” he said, contradicting his initial confession to police.
“[I] did not bribe the court for my release. I’m a clean and honorable person and I am not afraid to face the law, so if the court summons me at a later date, I will go there.”
Mr. Sarann declined to say whether he had paid the victim’s family to drop their complaint and referred further questions to the court.
Neither court officials nor the victim’s family could be reached Sunday.
Srey Naren, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said the victim’s mother told him last week that her family had accepted $5,000 from the suspect.
“The provincial court should sentence the suspect because police had enough evidence to prove he committed the crime. But he has been granted immunity because he is a police officer,” he added.