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Anger over pedophile pardons

Russian pedophile Alexander Trofimov (left) is escorted after a hearing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court in March of 2008.

A third foreign pedophile – a Dutch national who was sentenced to 10 years in prison for sex crimes against six boys in 2005 – was released from prison last week after receiving a royal pardon.

Prey Sar prison director Sun Lean said yesterday Rene Paul Martin Aubel had left the prison in Phnom Penh on December 23 after being pardoned.

The early release of three foreign pedophiles in one week was not a coincidence, Seila Samleang, country director of the NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said.

It marked the first time such pardons had been used to gain early release for foreign pedophiles, and now that this avenue had been opened, it would probably be exploited more frequently, he said.

“We don’t want to see criminals who sexually abuse children getting royal pardons,” Seila Samleang said.

“Because of the vulnerability of Cambodia and the vulnerability of Cambodian children, and because of the high rate of repeat offending, they must be imprisoned to the maximum extent, then deported.”

Two pedophiles were released from Preah Sihanouk Prison on December 20 after receiving royal pardons. German national Alexander Watrin had been serving a seven-year sentence for sex crimes against four boys under the age of 15, and Russian Alexander Trofimov had been serving an eight-year sentence for sex crimes against 17 under-age girls.

“Trofimov is the most dangerous of the three,” Seila Samleang said. The former mega-resort investor is wanted in Russia over allegations that he raped girls as young as nine there. He had been sentenced to 17 years in prison here, but this was reduced to eight years by the Court of Appeal last year.

The Royal Palace has distanced itself from Trofimov’s pardon, with Prince Sisowath Thomico saying the request had come from the government.

The Constitution offered two ways to pardon prisoners: the King had the right to pardon, and the government had the right to request that he grant one, he said, adding that the latter occurred in Trofimov’s case.

Interior ministry officials said they were surprised to see Trofimov’s name on the list of those pardoned, because the ministry had not requested it, and that his name had been inserted after they had forwarded the list to the justice ministry.

Seila Samleang said he “strongly agreed” that Trofimov’s pardon had been the result of political pressure, adding that Action Pour Les Enfants and other child-protection NGOs would submit a letter to the interior ministry calling for his deportation.

The political pressure allegedly exerted to gain Trofimov’s release had opened a new, shadowy route for other pedophiles to evade justice, child protection officers warned.

Seila Samleang said Cambodian NGOs were seeking to drum up international pressure to have Trofimov deported, and he called on international groups working here, including UNICEF, to join them.



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