A 69-YEAR-OLD Israeli national charged with soliciting sex from a minor professed his innocence during a hearing at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday, and his alleged victim denied that the two had ever engaged in a sexual relationship.
Yehuda Aharon Zvi was arrested in December last year as the result of an investigation launched by the child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, which became suspicious after learning that Zvi had been spending time at the Asia Hotel in Russey Keo district with the woman he says is his girlfriend who was accompanied by the alleged victim, who officials believe is 17.
“I have never had any sexual intercourse with the 17-year-old girl,” Zvi told the court. “She just paid casual visits to my room at the Asia Hotel, along with my girlfriend. I sometimes gave her 5,000 to 10,000 riels (US$2.40), because of my passionate feelings. That is not an exchange of money for sex.”
After the 17-year-old said Zvi’s story was accurate, prosecutor Chek Khemra accused her of lying, saying she had previously claimed Zvi had paid her for sex.
Zvi’s defense lawyer, Oeung Chakrya, requested that the court free his client, saying that there was no substantive evidence for the charge.
“I ask the court to lift the charges against my client and release him from prison,” he said.
Under Article 34 of the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, which regulates the purchasing of prostitution involving minors, Zvi faces between a two-year and five-year prison sentence if found guilty. Presiding Judge Sin Visal did not specify when a verdict would be handed down in the case.
Zvi was arrested in Thailand in 2002 on charges of engaging in sexual activity with two underage male prostitutes and possessing child pornography, according to the Associated Press.