A US man charged with performing indecent acts with two minors denied the allegations yesterday during his trial at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
After questing Scott Alan Hecker, 44, for nearly an hour-and-a-half, Judge Seng Neang adjourned the trial until Feb 12 before hearing the victims’ testimony.
In his defense, Mr Hecker admitted he knew the sisters aged 12 and 14 and their family for three years, but strictly as friends.
“I like these children and I like their family and I like the family culture of Cambodia,” he said. “I never touched them. In my intentions, I never had sexual feelings toward them.”
Mr Hecker said that the girls’ parents always condoned his numerous trips with the sisters from Preah Sihanouk city, where they lived, to Phnom Penh. The defendant also said that he had given the family a total of $410 on two occasions because he pitied their impoverished circumstances.
Following the hearing, the girls’ mother said she believed Mr Hecker was innocent of the charges and hoped for his acquittal.
“I believe Hecker is a good person and I don’t want Hecker to be detained in prison,” she said.
The mother also asked the NGO currently caring for her daughters in Phnom Penh to let her take them back to Preah Sihanouk city.
Phnom Penh police arrested Mr Hecker on July 23.
Samleang Seila, country director for anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said his group tipped off the police after spotting Mr Hecker check into a Phnom Penh hotel room with the girls. He said APLE began monitoring Mr Hecker in 2007 in Preah Sihanouk city once he began financially supporting several families there.
Contacted by phone after the trial, the victim’s lawyer, Peng Maneth, refused to identify the NGO who is taking care of the sisters for fear of compromising their safety, and rebuked the mother’s statements of support for Hecker.
“The parents did not fulfill their role to defend their children,” he said. “If parents in other similar cases support the defendant, the victims will be vulnerable.”