Postponed Trial Of Sex Offender To Go Forward

Lawyer or no lawyer, the Si­hanoukville Municipal Court will go for­ward today with the already twice-postponed trial of Russian businessman Alexander Trofimov in the largest pedophile case in the country’s history, according to presiding Judge Taing Sunlay. 

The Sihanoukville court attempted in September, and then again in October, to try Trofimov, who is accused of sexually abusing 17 girls, but on both occasions Trofimov had no lawyer and the court postponed the hearing.

Taing Sunlay said by telephone that he had been informed Monday that Trofimov had hired attorney Saing Vannak to represent him in today’s hearing.

Asked if the trial would go ahead regardless of whether Trofimov appeared in court with a lawyer, Taing Sunlay responded, “Yes.”

“If [the lawyer] doesn’t come, we will have to do it,” he said.

Trofimov is currently serving a six-year prison term after being convicted by the Phnom Penh Muni­cipal Court in March of sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl. Trofi­mov’s previous attorney resigned due to a sore throat just before his September hearing in Sihanoukville and Trofimov claimed he was unable to hire a lawyer in time for the October hearing date.

Saing Vannak confirmed Mon­day that he had been hired by Trof­imov and insisted that he will be in Sihanoukville Municipal Court to­morrow to defend his client.

Anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour les Enfants attorney Peng Maneth, who is representing the victims in the case, said the court had first informed him of today’s hearing on Friday.

“Everyone was surprised…. We were not prepared,” he said, adding that the victims’ live in various parts of the country and his organization had to scramble to get them to Sihanoukville.

An official with anti-pedophile NGO International Justice Mission, which aided in the police investigation of Trofimov, said the victims had been transported to Sihanouk­ville on Monday. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he felt confident that the trial would begin today.

(Additional reporting by James Welsh)

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