A doctor at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital said Tuesday that he diagnosed an alleged US pedophile with an old head injury late last month, but denied claims by Sihanoukville Court Director Svay Sisarouth that he recommended that Terry Darrell Smith, who is now at large, should be released from prison.
Svay Sisarouth said Monday that she released Smith and his girlfriend Chea Sovannary, 26, from jail based on a letter signed by Calmette’s chief of neurology, Dr Kong Phirum.
Anti-pedophile NGO Inter-national Justice Mission expressed grave concern about the release of the 54-year-old US national, who was charged with debauchery in Sihanoukville last month and who, according to IJM, is wanted in the US on 13 charges of child sexual abuse.
“We didn’t ask for the release,” Kong Phirum said by telephone. “But he should receive treatment when he gets sick,” he said, adding that he had no idea why the court’s director released the suspect from prison.
Smith was arrested July 31 and charged with debauchery Aug 3 for allegedly having sex with two ethnic Vietnamese girls aged 13 and 14 at his Sihanoukville bar, Tramp’s Palace, and filming the abuse, an IJM official and police said Monday.
Smith’s Cambodian girlfriend Chea Sovannary was also charged with debauchery for allegedly procuring and facilitating Smith’s abuse of children at his establishment.
Both were released from pre-trial detention Aug 31. Svay Sisarouth has said she released Chea Sovannary so she could take care of her boyfriend.
Kong Phirum said Smith underwent a medical test two weeks ago at Calmette Hospital following a written request from the Sihanoukville court. Smith was accompanied by his girlfriend and his lawyer Khieu Sambo, Kong Phirum said, adding that he did not see police escort the two suspects during the visit.
The tests showed that Smith suffered a head injury a long time ago that is now causing him headaches, he said.
Kong Phirum said he gave Smith three days’ worth of medicine and instructed him to return later to Calmette. He said he has not seen Smith since.
Svay Sisarouth said Tuesday that as Sihanoukville’s court director she had no choice but to release the child abuse suspect and his girlfriend because she feared that Smith would have died if he remained behind bars.
“His release could not have been avoided,” she said of her controversial decision that has been strongly criticized by IJM.
“If we kept him, it would have been dangerous to him and would even have been dangerous to me,” she added without elaborating.
Svay Sisarouth denied that she received any money to grant Smith’s and his girlfriend’s release, and maintained that she would now summon his lawyer to report on his medical treatment. She also confirmed that she was unaware of Smith’s current whereabouts. On Monday, Svay Sisarouth said that if Smith were to flee Cambodia it would be the failing of the country’s border police for letting him escape.
Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana said he was unaware of Smith’s case and was not in a position to comment.
Smith’s lawyer Khieu Sambo denied claims by IJM that an arrest warrant has been issued for his client in the US, but declined to comment on the charges against him in Cambodia or name the hospital where his client is allegedly receiving treatment.
“He has been receiving treatment in a hospital. It is not finished yet, the water still flows,” he said of Smith’s head injury, which is believed to have occurred in the late 1970s.
“The court had the right reasons to release him,” he said.
Be Sivanna, chief of Sihanoukville’s Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Bureau, said police are not looking for Smith, and that it was up to the court to decide whether to arrest him again. He added that Smith’s US passport was confiscated when he was arrested and therefore he could not flee the country.
“I don’t believe that he could go out unless there are [new] documents from the US Embassy,” he said.
US Embassy spokesman Jeff Daigle said he could not comment on cases involving US citizens. Daigle also said that he could not comment on whether a US citizen who has been charged with debauchery in Cambodia could be granted a new passport by the embassy.
“There is no general answer for it,” Daigle said. “Every consular case is handled case by case,” he added.
Beatrice Magnier, director of anti-pedophile Action Pour Les Enfants, said she was concerned by the Sihanoukville court’s decision.
“We were very surprised to hear that he was released on medical reasons. His [girlfriend] should not to have been released,” she said.
Prior to Smith’s arrest, IJM aided Sihanoukville police in collecting evidence, including videos of as many as five girls, aged 12 to 15, dancing naked at Smith’s bar and footage of Smith having sex with them.
“The case is progressing well and the Cambodian authorities are dealing with the American Embassy here to re-arrest him,” an IJM official who asked not to be named said Tuesday.