Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday tried three teenagers on rape allegations stemming from the assault of a 5-year-old girl in 2004, when the suspects were just 11, 9 and 8 years old.
Police arrested the boys in April 2004 after the victim was taken to the hospital for injuries to her abdomen and doctors said the girl appeared to have been raped. The boys were charged with rape at the time, according to court officials.
Yesterday, judges in the case as well as the prosecutor, declined to discuss the reasons for the seven-year delay in the case.
Deputy prosecutor Plang Sophal acknowledged that by law children under the age of 13 cannot be charged with a crime, but declined to explain why the boys were charged in this case.
Still, he said the boys could not be found criminally liable for the crime because of their age at the time, and that the case was now a civil matter over compensation.
“According to the law, if the children were under the age of 13, they are not charged criminally, but if the court finds them at fault, they must pay compensation to the victim,” he said, adding that it would take a legal education to understand the case.
Only one of the suspects, now age 16, appeared in court, reiterating his public pronouncement of innocence made in 2004.
“I did not rape the victim, but together we all embraced the victim,” he said.
Despite police claims in 2004 that the boys had confessed, in a 2004 interview two of the boys denied they raped the girl, only that they held her down and laid upon her.
The 8-year-old had stated they were acting out something they saw in a pornographic film.
According to statements from the other two suspects read aloud in court, they maintain a similar story. The suspects’ lawyer, Ung Sileth, asked the judges for acquittal, arguing that the girl could also have been injured in some other way and then wrongly accused the suspects.
Presiding Judge Duch Kimsan said the verdict would be handed down April 8.