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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Frenchman released after being cleared in molestation case

Frenchman released after being cleared in molestation case

A provincial court has ordered the release of a French national who was arrested in February  and charged with abusing two minors.

A FRENCHMAN who was arrested in February on suspicion of committing indecent acts with two minors in Sihanoukville has been released after being cleared by the Preah Sihanouk provincial court, according to the country director of the anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE).

The suspect, known only as Jean Claude, 64, was arrested in a guesthouse in Sihanoukville after two underage girls were found in his room on February 26, prosecutor Mak Khieng said at the time.

Samleang Seila, APLE country director, said Thursday, "I was very surprised when I was informed formally yesterday that the accusations against Jean Claude have been lifted."

He added, "I pity the local police who went to great efforts to bring the man to trial, but now the man has been freed from punishment. His impunity is an  injustice."

Mak Khieng, the prosecutor in the case, said there were no plans to appeal the court's decision.

Kim Eng, the investigating judge, told the Post Thursday that he dropped the allegations for two reasons. First, one of the girls who was discovered in the room denied that any indecent acts occurred.

"The girl said that Jean Claude did not bathe her or touch her breasts," he said, referring to the original allegations.

The other reason, he said, was that he believed APLE's examination of the alleged victim was intentionally inaccurate.

APLE accused of meddling

Kim Eng said APLE had Jean Claude arrested and then attempted to make the girl testify that he really did bathe her and touch her body,

adding that the organisation could be charged with influencing testimony.

Samleang Seila said APLE still believed the suspect was guilty, adding that his staff would draft a letter asking the Ministry of Justice to investigate the court's decision.

Hearing about APLE's intentions, Kim Eng said, "I would be brave enough to face the organisation legally if they dared complain about me to the Ministry of Justice.... I have enough proof and documents to clarify."

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