The attorney of a Belgian man charged with murdering a French woman in February and dumping her body in the Kampot estuary filed an application for his client to be released on bail yesterday, citing a lack of evidence, even after months of investigation, the attorney said.
Khun Sophal, who represents suspect Oliver Van Den Bogaert, 40, maintained that even after four months of imprisonment and six months of investigation – which a judge said was still ongoing – police had failed to assemble a sufficient amount of evidence against his client.
“Up to now, according to my inspection of the charges and the process of interrogation, I have not found any evidence for putting any burden on or charging my client yet,” he said, adding that he, meanwhile, had found “10 witnesses, Cambodian and foreign” supporting his client’s innocence.
Judges had told him to expect a ruling on the application next week, Sophal said, adding that if the request were denied he would appeal.
Investigating judge Hong Sokhun Vattana said that he had not yet received word of the application, but maintained that the questioning of witnesses was still ongoing.
“The reason that the court is taking a longer time to investigate is because the court wants to investigate this case in detail before conducting the trial,” Sokhun Vattana added. “The long process of the investigation does not mean it’s past the limit on pre-trial detention.”
In felony cases, the law allows for a total of up to 18 months of pre-trial detention, as long as specific reasons are given.
The victim, Ophélie Begnis, 25, was last seen February 9 after leaving her Kampot guesthouse on a bike. Her naked body was later found floating in the estuary, with wounds to the head and arms.
Van Den Bogaert’s family did not immediately respond to requests for comment yesterday, but his brother, Ian Van Den Bogaert, has maintained his brother’s innocence in the past. On the day Begnis disappeared, he said in April, Oliver had been sick at home.
Furthermore, he added at the time, on the day Oliver was allegedly seen dumping the victim’s bicycle, he had spent the entire day with a Belgian businessman who was prepared to testify on his behalf.