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Danes sentenced to 15 years for illegally trafficking codeine pills

A Danish woman and her son who mailed codeine tablets to the United States and Canada have been charged with drug trafficking.

THE Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday sentenced a Danish woman and her son to 15 years in prison and ordered each to pay 30 million riels (US$7,500) for illegal drug smuggling.

Johanne Vinther Axelsen, 55, was present when the sentence was read, but her son Niels Eikeland, 26, has been absent since the first hearing on January 8.

Outside the courtroom, Axelsen told the Post "it is an unfair trial, as I didn't commit the crime". She added: "I have decided not to pay even one dollar to the corrupt court."

Axelsen was arrested in April last year for attempting to post more than 30,000 codeine pills and pain-killers to the US and Canada.

"I am not a drug smuggler, just a medicine seller," she said.

Prison over bribe

Axelsen is currently being held at the Prey Sar prison, where she says the conditions are inhumane.

"The room I share with 42 women is very narrow and [has] only one toilet, and the prison officials ask for the prisoners to pay 1,500 riel or they will not be allowed to go outside," she said.

"A private Cambodian lawyer [said] if you pay $20,000, you will get released, but I refuse to pay any money to the corrupt court officials, who will use the money to buy a luxury house and car," she added.

Axelsen said her lawyer was seeking intervention from the King or the United Nations, and that her son paid police $7,500 and was released, but she was unsure of his location.

Tom Barthel Hansen, head of the Representative Office of Denmark in Cambodia, told the Post Thursday: "We are trying to find the possibilities to appeal the case. We expected a much smaller sentence based on a talk with her lawyer, so we were surprised to hear the 15-year sentence."

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY THOMAS GAM-NIELSEN

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