The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday found a 62-year-old Swedish man guilty on two separate charges of having sex with a 9-year-old boy and indecent acts, sentencing him to six-and-a-half years in prison.
Presiding Judge Chhay Kong said that, in addition to the prison sentence, the court ordered Johan Abrahim Escori to pay a $250 fine for abusing the 9-year-old in Preah Sihanouk city, and later committing indecent acts against the same child in Phnom Penh.
“The court has warned the defendant not to live in Cambodia after he finishes his term in prison,” Mr Kong said at the court after announcing the verdict.
Escori was arrested in the capital on May 6 for sexually abusing the child, whom he informally adopted in 2007. At a December hearing, the boy testified that the elderly Escori had raped him, but the defendant maintained that he had only touched the boy’s genitals in a “fatherly” fashion.
Theng Meng Y, Escori’s lawyer, said yesterday that he and his client were unhappy with the verdict.
“I cannot accept the Municipal Court’s verdict, because it did not have enough evidence to punish my client,” he maintained. “Even the victim’s mother does not believe her son, because my client is a good person,” he added.
Last month, the boy’s mother told the court she had dropped a complaint she had filed against Escori, because the relatively wealthy foreigner had clothed and fed her son when she was too poor to do so herself.
Peng Maneth, the child’s lawyer, declined to comment directly on the court’s verdict, but said: “We worked hard to help the victim to avoid the defendant’s sexual abuse, and this was also a warning for those who perpetrate crimes on minors.”
According to Bith Kimhong, chief of the anti-trafficking department of the Interior Ministry, police last year arrested 34 foreigners who solicited child prostitutes, had sex with minors or committed indecent acts against minors, compared to just 13 foreigners in 2008.
“I want to tell all foreigners and tourists not to be confused: Cambodia is not a heaven for having sex with minors,” Mr Kimhong added.