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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lawyer fired, trial opens

Lawyer fired, trial opens

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James D’Agostino (centre) enters the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday.

The trial of an American charged with purchasing child prostitutes opened in a whirl of controversy yesterday when the mother of one of the alleged victims claimed her son had been forced to make false accusations against the suspect and demanded that the court appoint her a new lawyer.

James D’Agostino, 57, was arrested on February 16 in Phnom Penh’s Toul Kork district and charged with sexually abusing three boys between seven and 14 years old.

However, before the trial began, Chea Sony, mother of an 11-year-old alleged victim, requested a new lawyer and dismissed the appointed lawyer from Action Pour Les Enfants.

“They [APLE} have forced [my son] to make accusations against the suspect. Therefore, I do not need them to defend my son anymore,” she told the Post yesterday.  She also said that the children were forced by police to file complaints against the American.  “I have not filed any complaint against the suspect because I know that he has not committed any crime against my son.”

These claims were disputed by dismissed APLE lawyer Peng Maneth, who said parents of the victims had failed to cooperate in the case because they had received money from the suspect.

“Since I was appointed by the court to defend them, I have worked very hard, but the parents will not cooperate,” Peng Maneth said. “The parents used to get money from the suspect, so they do not want to sue him although he committed crimes against their sons,” she said.

The next hearing is scheduled for October 10.

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