Suspected Pedophile a No-Show at Trial’s Start

The Sihanoukville Municipal Court on Tuesday began hearing the largest pedophile court case in the country’s history, but the accused, Russian businessman Alexander Trofimov, was not present, raising the possibility of a retrial, officials said.

Currently serving a six-year sentence at Prey Sar prison for sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl, Trofimov was supposed to face charges Tuesday in Sihanoukville of sexually abusing 17 girls, but according to court and prison officials, he wasn’t able to make it.

Prey Sar Correctional Center 1 Director Mong Kim Heng said by telephone that he only received the written court order to transfer Trofimov to Sihanoukville at 5 pm Monday—not enough time to get the prisoner to the coast for the court’s 8 am start time Tuesday.

“We could not take him there because the letter was late,” Mong Kim Heng said. “The mission to transfer requires two to three days’ advance [notice].”

Mong Kim Heng declined to comment as to whether Trofimov would be at the Sihanoukville court today.

Sihanoukville court Deputy Director Kim Eng, one of the three judges presiding over Trofimov’s case, said by telephone Tuesday that the order to transfer Trofimov was sent to Prey Sar on Saturday.

“We issued the warrant to the prison to take [Trofimov], and they said it was too short a time,” he said, adding that day one of the trial went forward without Trofimov.

“We didn’t have in mind that we didn’t want him to come,” he said.

Kim Eng said Trofimov’s ab­sence from his trial “is not a problem,” but that as a result Trofimov “has the right to complain for a retrial.”

Ith Rady, undersecretary of state at the Justice Ministry, said trying a prisoner in absentia is only acceptable if the accused is on the run.

“Trying in absentia is not appropriate…. [Trofimov] can complain for a retrial,” he said.

Trofimov’s lawyer, Saing Vannak, said by telephone that the judges had informed him during Tues­day’s hearing that because Trofi­mov was absent, he could apply for a retrial.

“No one is happy when the client doesn’t show [for the trial],” he said.

Bith Kimhong, director of the In­terior Ministry’s anti-human trafficking department, said Tues­day he also did not understand why Trofimov was not in court Tuesday.

“It is a big case. It is in the hands of the court,” he said. “We just wanted a fair trial.”

Lawyers for the victims could not be reached for comment, but an official for anti-pedophile NGO International Justice Mission who has worked closely with police on the case, said he had not heard a sufficient excuse for Trofimov not being in court Tuesday.

“There is no reason why he shouldn’t be down there. Nobody can give me a reason why,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

         (Additional reporting by James Welsh)

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