A prosecutor said on Thursday that he would provisionally charge a Dutch national today with crimes including failing to report a crime and concealing evidence after his boyfriend allegedly tortured a toddler in graphic videos that were leaked online this week.
The footage of a 2-year-old boy being subjected to abuse including torture with an electric prod was met with outrage across Cambodian social media on Tuesday, leading to the swift arrest of 53-year-old Stefan Struik in Kompong Cham province that evening.
The boyfriend and suspected torturer, Vietnamese national Nguyen Thanh Dung, 34, was arrested on Wednesday night in Ho Chi Minh City following a two-day manhunt. Deputy National Police chief Mok Chito said on Thursday that Vietnamese authorities had yet to respond to requests for extradition.
San Sopheak, a deputy prosecutor at the Mondolkiri Provincial Court, said on Thursday he would provisionally charge Mr. Struik, who holds Cambodian citizenship and owns cacao plantations in the country, with “omission to file a complaint against the mistreatment of a minor” and “concealment of evidence.”
Both charges carry a prison term of between one and three years, and a fine of between 2 and 6 million riel, or about $500 to $1,500. Mr. Struik is being held at the provincial police headquarters and is expected to be back in court today.
If Mr. Nguyen were returned to Cambodia, Mr. Sopheak said, he would be charged with aggravated torture and acts of cruelty, which carries a prison sentence of 10 to 20 years. General Chito said authorities were waiting to find out whether he would be returned to face trial.
“We have already made a request, but they haven’t responded yet,” he said. “We want it to be prosecuted here.”
James McCabe, head of the Child Protection Unit (CPU), a policing charity involved in the investigation, also said he hoped the alleged torturer would be returned to be “prosecuted for the horrendous crimes that were committed in Cambodia.”
In a video circulated on Facebook, Mr. Nguyen admits to police in Vietnam that he abused the boy on August 22 at a plantation while the child’s parents were working elsewhere.
In a separate video, uploaded to the Vietnam Television news site, the suspect says the boy’s parents often left the child in his care, and were even considering making him the child’s godfather. He also confirms that he is the boyfriend of Mr. Struik.
Photos uploaded to the CPU’s Facebook page on Thursday show officials searching Mr. Nguyen’s room in Mondolkiri province and producing a taser, thought to be the same one used in the videos.
“We checked on Thursday and our intention was to find the taser, and now we have found it,” said deputy provincial police chief So Sovann, adding that Mr. Struik claimed he was unaware of the taser being in the room.
The 2-year-old victim traveled to the Royal Phnom Penh Hospital on Thursday for a health checkup, paid for by Hun Mana, the prime minister’s eldest daughter, according to Huon Kimheng, deputy Mondolkiri provincial police chief in charge of anti-human trafficking.
(Additional reporting by George Wright)
© 2016, All rights reserved.