PHNOM Penh Municipal Court is set to announce its verdict today in the case of a 57-year-old American national charged with abusing three underage Cambodian girls, court officials said following a closed-door hearing on Tuesday.
After the four-hour session, Judge Chhay Kong said a verdict against Harvey Alexander Johnson, who has been charged with committing indecent acts against three girls, aged 13 and 14, would be announced at 8am.
Johnson was arrested on August 9 at his rented room in Phnom Penh’s Boeung Kak commune after case workers for anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) presented authorities with statements from 10 underage girls accusing him of sexual abuse.
Nuon Phanith, an APLE lawyer who is representing the victims, told the Post that Johnson had proclaimed his innocence and rejected the charges
against him during the hearing.
“There is nothing surprising about Johnson not confessing to the charges. That is normal for the accused,” he said.
He added that the court heard from two of the accusers, who he said provided “concrete evidence” of Johnson’s guilt.
“I firmly hope that the court will truly find justice for the three victims based on testimonies from two victims,” he said.
The hearing was originally scheduled for January 19 but was postponed due to the lack of an interpreter.
Court prosecutor Chea Meth said Tuesday that Johnson had the right to protest his innocence, but that he had not provided any evidence to disprove the charges. If found guilty, he said, Johnson faces from one to five years in prison and a fine of between 2 million and 6 million riels (US$1,444).
Johnson’s defence lawyer, Dun Vibol, could not be reached Tuesday evening.