Defense Team for Alleged Belgian Sex Abuser Prepares for Trial

Accused Belgian child sex abuser Philippe Dessart will be defended in Phnom Penh Muni­cipal Court today by a team of three Cambodian lawyers, members of his defense team said Thursday.

Tep Monysocheat said his client, who in 1994 was convicted of child rape and torture in Belgium and imprisoned for three years, says he is innocent of sex crimes in Cam­bodia.

He added that the alleged victim in the Cambodia case, a 13-year-old boy, has told court officials that Dessart did not abuse him.

Dessart was arrested April 10 in a Phnom Penh guesthouse with the naked 13-year-old in his bed.

Prior to his arrest Dessart, 47, had long been generous to the boy’s family, paying for travel and other expenses, Tep Monysocheat said.

“Whenever he [came] back from abroad, he always gave some money to help the family,” Tep Monysocheat said.

He added that his Belgian client had wanted to help the family, and that there was nothing unwholesome about his patronage.

He also said that his client’s previous largesse will not influence the testimony of the 13-year-old or his mother, both of whom have been summoned to appear in court today.

Beatrice Magnier, director of Ac­tion Pour Les Enfants, said the boy initially told police that Dessart had sexually abused him on several occasions.

Over the course of a two- to three-year relationship with the Cambo­dian family, Dessart reportedly built the 13-year-old’s family a house in Banteay Meanchey province and gave them thousands of dollars in cash, she said.

“We know the family visited him in prison,” she added. “We know they’re supporting him.”

Deputy prosecutor Phlang Sophal said authorities will try to determine today whether Dessart has influenced the boy’s statements.

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