sihanoukville – The largest pedophile trial in Cambodia’s history was postponed by the Sihanoukville Municipal Court on Tuesday because the lawyer for accused Russian businessman Alexander Trofimov has a sore throat.
Trofimov, executive director of the Koh Puos Investment Group, was arrested in October 2007 and charged with sexually abusing 18 Sihanoukville girls and a 14-year-old from Phnom Penh. He was sentenced in March to 13 years in prison for sexually abusing the 14-year-old.
Before presiding Judge Taing Sunlay announced Oct 13 as the new date for the trial, 13 of Trofimov’s alleged 18 victims were escorted into the courtroom at 8 am under the watchful eye of about 20 municipal and national anti-human trafficking police.
“We would like to inform the lawyers and the victims that the date is Oct 13…and you don’t need to be summoned again,” Taing Sunlay told the packed courthouse.
The judge then told Trofimov that he must have a lawyer before the new trial or otherwise accept a court-appointed attorney. Trofimov responded that he preferred to find his own lawyer.
Contacted by telephone, Trofimov’s lawyer Ouch Sophal said he sent a letter to the court more than a week ago explaining that he had to step down from the case to seek medical treatment abroad.
“I quit the job because I have a sore throat that must be treated in Vietnam,” he said. “I have already told [Trofimov], and he has agreed.”
Taing Sunlay said later by telephone that he only got word of the resignation Monday and did not have enough time to inform participants the hearing would be delayed.
Samleang Seila, country director for anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, who assisted police in Trofimov’s arrest, said that he was disappointed with the last-minute notification of the postponement.
“We have wasted a lot of resources and preparation,” he said. “The victims were very upset this morning.”