Testimony Heard in Trial of Man Accused of Taxi Theft

The trial of a schizophrenic and suicidal Swiss man charged with stealing a taxi in Kampot province was held at the Phnom Penh Mun­icipal Court yesterday, but no verdict was handed down.

Peter Schweizer, 59, was arrested on May 25 for allegedly stealing a taxi near Kampot provincial town. His trial was originally scheduled to be held at the provincial court, but was moved to the capital to allow for better access to medical care.

Mr Schweizer told the court yesterday that he was mentally unwell when he took the taxi driver’s car.

“I was scared that the driver would rob and kill me. That’s why I confiscated this car and drove to escape,” he told the court. “I didn’t want to take the car for myself…. I have a serious mental illness and sometimes I can’t control myself.”

Defense lawyer Sath Thida argued that Mr Schweizer was not aware of what he was doing when he stole the car.

“My client had a certificate of health from a hospital in Swit­zerland confirming that he was in treatment for two years previously and sometimes cannot control himself,” Ms Thida said.

Mental illness is not an accepted defense in Cambodian courts.

According to the complaint from taxi driver Yean Sam Ath, which was read out in court, Mr Schwei­zer asked to be driven to Phnom Penh. Partway there, Mr Schwei­zer asked the driver to turn around and return to Kampot town; when the driver got out of the car to make arrangements for other goods being transported, Mr Schweizer got into the driver’s seat and drove away.

A witness statement read in court yesterday described the Swiss man as driving “very fast” toward Kampot town.

Deputy Prosecutor Heang Soph­eak argued that statements by Mr Schweizer and witnesses proved the Swiss man had stolen the taxi. “This was a bad act for society, so I have persisted with this robbery charge,” the deputy prosecutor added.

The chief of the Judges’ Council Din Sivuthy said that the verdict would be announced at a later date, which has yet to be scheduled.


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