NGO: Man Was Wrongfully Released on Bail

A US man suspected of sexually abusing four underage girls was wrongfully released from jail by a Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge last week, the girls’ caretaker has alleged.

Investigating Judge Nup So­phon allowed Frank Kent, a 47-year-old California man, to go free on bail after dropping a charge of de­bauchery stemming from his arrest Jan 1.

The judge determined the four Vietnamese girls linked to Kent were of legal age and that the debauchery charge was unwarranted, prosecutor Nget Sarath said Friday. Kent, who is also charged with taking pornographic photos, was released Tuesday after posting $5,000 bail.

Nup Sophon could not be contacted for comment Sunday.

But Pierre Legros, whose NGO Afesip is now caring for the girls, said on Friday that police and US Cus­toms officials have documentation pro­v­ing the girls are be­tween 12 and 15 years old.

“They wait until people forget about the case and then the judge re­leases him,” he said. “If Cam­bodia wants to clean up its im­age, it can do it…. But it needs good people in the judicial system.”

Cambodia has garnered praise recently for helping the US prosecute its citizens accused of committing sex crimes here. Legros said US Customs officials were aid­ing in Kent’s case and were con­sulting scientists in the US to de­termine the girls’ age through bone X-rays.

But Kent’s lawyer, Peou Srey Suor, said the girls are between 15 and 18, and were pres­sured to give false ages to the court.

“The police or some NGO forced the girls to say” they were underage, he said Sunday. He added that Kent was sick and needed to be released to seek medical treatment.

Kent arrived in Cambodia more than a year ago and has been planning to invest in a guest house, Peou Srey Suor said. Kent is still in Phnom Penh and innocent of the charges, he said. No date has been set for his return to court.


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