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German guilty of child assault

PREAH Sihanouk provincial court yesterday sentenced a German national in absentia to a year in prison after finding him guilty of committing indecent acts against two underage boys last year, but court officials suspended all but two months of the sentence.

Walter Orson Novak, 46, was arrested in March last year from a guesthouse in Sihanoukville, where he was renting a room.

He was accused of taking the two boys – aged 14 and 11 – down to a beach on multiple occasions to molest them, and paying them up to US$5 each time, according to prominent child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants. He was freed on bail after serving a month of pretrial detention.

Following the hearing yesterday, Nuon Phanith, a lawyer provided to the victims by APLE, said presiding judge Im Manith also ordered Novak to pay 500,000 riels (US$121) to each victim.

“I think this is a petty conviction for this type of crime,” said Nuon Phanith. “500,000 riels in compensation seems to look down on the victims.”

Officials have so far been unable to locate Novak after he changed addresses without notifying local authorities, Nuon Phanith said in an earlier hearing.

Presiding judge Im Manith could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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