The Cambodian lawyer for a convicted Australian sex offender on Sunday has asked his client to return to Cambodia.
In January, the Siem Reap court convicted Clint Rex Betterridge in absentia of having sex with underage girls and sentenced him to 10 years in a Cambodian prison.
Through a mix-up, the Australian Embassy issued Betterridge a passport after he was released on bail, allowing him to flee Cambodia.
“According to [Cambodian] state law, the court has found him guilty so he must be imprisoned in Cambodia,” said Dy Borima, the lawyer representing Betterridge. “But if my client is not guilty, he is free and should be allowed to go back to his country.”
Dy Borima added that Betterridge should be returned to Cambodia since further appeals may be filed in his defense.
Last week, an Australian delegation came to Cambodia to discuss with Cambodian officials how to return Betterridge to Cambodia. Since Cambodia and Australia have no formal extradition treaty, the officials met with the Cambodians to find a legal way to return Betterridge. He is expected to be returned as soon as possible, Minister of Women’s and Veteran’s Affairs Mu Sochua said last week.
According to news reports, Betterridge last week surrendered his passport to the Australian government. The report by the Australian Associated Press, which cited the Australian Broadcasting Corp Web site, said the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed that a representative of Betterridge handed the passport over to Australian authorities.
The report did not say if Betterridge was being detained or when he would be returned. He was arrested in Siem Reap with another Australian, Bart Lauwaert. Lauwaert, who did not receive bail, was convicted of similar sex offenses and is serving a 20-year sentence. In recent months, the number of Westerners arrested and put on trial for sex offenses in Cambodia has increased.