Officials Defend Trial Delays for 2 Foreigners

Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh court officials this week defended long delays of the trials of two foreign men accused in separate cases of debauchery.

Italian Alain Berruti, arrested in June 2001, has been in jail for longer than the maximum six-month pre-trial detention period.

Frenchman Pierre Guynot served six months in prison starting in May 2001, but was freed in November after an initial trial. Officials said at the time they needed two months to gather more evidence.

Berruti was arrested after po­lice saw him allegedly engaging in sex­ual acts with young boys near the Tonle Sap river. He went to trial May 5, but the trial was postponed when Berruti refused his court-appointed lawyer. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Nop Sophon gave him three weeks to find a new lawyer and said that a new trial would begin in two weeks. Nop Sophon said Monday that a lawyer has been found for Ber­ruti, but “be­cause the lawyer has no interpreter…and this case is late because of a lack of money; the court does not have money to hire an interpreter.”

Nop Sophon said he had ap­pealed to the Foreign Ministry to provide an interpreter. But Long Visalo, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the court should ask the Ministry of Justice instead.

Meanwhile, Sihanoukville court director Huon Many said Guy­­not’s trial would be held sometime this month. “The judge has just finished his investigation recently—that is why the trial is late,” he said. Prosecuting Judge Tak Kimsea, however, said he finished in early April.

Guynot, owner of Obye Karting in Sihanoukville, has been ac­cused of illegal confinement, sexual abuse and illegal possession of a weapon, stemming from allegations that he sexually abused young boys in his residence.

Shortly after the November trial, at least two of the boys withdrew sworn statements attesting to Guynot’s guilt. The lawyer for the boys, Yim Shary, said he still believes “the Frenchman gave money to the witnesses and to the victims so that they would abandon the case.”

Yim Shary’s partner, Chum So­phea, sent a letter to the trial judge and the Ministry of Interior three months ago asking that Guynot be re-arrested, but did not receive a reply, Yim Shary said.

Guynot has denied the charg­es. He was released after the first trial. He is not a threat to flee the country because officials have con­fiscated his passport.

Only one foreigner, Briton Jon Keeler, has been successfully convicted on sex charges. He has served more than half of a three-year sentence.

 

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