Pedo Suspect Says he Bribed Court Clerks, Seeks Investigation

The trial of a British national charged with purchasing sex from a child and committing indecent acts was delayed yesterday at Phnom Penh Municipal Court for the second time after the suspect made allegations that he paid a bribe to a court official and refused to represent himself.

Matthew John Harland asked the court yesterday to investigate a clerk for accepting a $15,000 bribe he paid with the promise he would receive a lighter sentence.

Mr Harland, a 36-year-old British computer engineer, was arrested in Phnom Penh in May and charged with purchasing sex from three girls younger than 15.

When pressed by Presiding Judge Kor Vandy, Mr Harland could not name the court clerk who accepted the bribe.

Judge Vandy also asked Mr Vandy if he would like to go ahead with the trial yesterday, but Mr Harland refused, saying the court should investigate his claim of corruption and provide him with proper legal representation before moving ahead with his child-sex case.

Mr Harland’s former attorney, Peung Yok Hiep, said the suspect dismissed her and another attorney, Theng Meng Y, earlier this month because the lawyers were often unable to meet with the suspect.

Mr Harland’s trial is now set for Nov 19. He was supposed to face trial on Sept 1, but that hearing was delayed as well.

The suspect’s claims of bribery were met with indignation from court officials yesterday, who said Mr Harland needed to supply evidence before alleging corruption on behalf of court staff.

“The suspect cannot speak like that because the suspect did not have evidence,” deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot said.

Mr Huot added that bribing court officials is illegal, which could lead to another criminal complaint against Mr Harland.

During yesterday’s hearing, Mr Harland said he reported the alleged bribe to Anticorruption Unit President Om Yentieng and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Keo Remy, Anticorruption Unit spokesman, said he had not seen any complaint from Mr Harland.

Sam Pracheameanith, Justice Minister Ang Vong Vattana’s Cabinet chief, also said he had not received a complaint from Mr Harland.

Mr Remy and Mr Pracheameanith did, however, encourage the British national to file a corruption complaint.

Seila Samleang, country director of NGO Action pour les Enfants, said bribery and corruption are always a concern when foreigners are being tried for sex crimes. He applauded Mr Harland for raising the allegation of bribery in court, but said the suspect’s sincerity remains unclear.


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