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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rudolph Knuchel acquittal expected

Rudolph Knuchel acquittal expected

Siem Reap court officials and child protection authorities are predicting that the

long-delayed Jan 26 trial of suspected Swiss pedophile Rudolph Knuchel will result

in his acquittal.

"People should be pessimistic about the possibility of a conviction," said

a Siem Reap court official who spoke to the Post about Knuchel's case on a condition

of anonymity. "The case has been very difficult to pursue."

A long-time Siem Reap restaurateur, Knuchel was arrested on Jan 26, 2000 during a

police raid in which he was found almost naked in the company of two boys aged 14

and 18 years old. Knuchel was subsequently charged with debauchery and rape by a

total of eight Siem Reap youths who alleged a pattern of sexual abuse by Knuchel

spanning several years.

Knuchel's case suffered delays due to what court officials describe as "evidence

gathering problems". Diagnosed with a yet-unidentified heart ailment, Knuchel

was released from prison in March 2000 and has been living at home awaiting trial.

According to the court official, Article 7 and Article 8 of Cambodia's law against

sexual trafficking which Knuchel has been charged with are too vague to assure a

conviction.

"Article 7 is related to operating a 'place of debauchery', but exactly what

is a 'place of debauchery' isn't defined and could be disputed by Knuchel's lawyers,"

the court official said. "Article 8 refers to sexual acts with a child under

15, but when he was arrested he was only in the presence of an 18 year old, and only

one of the other seven boys who are pressing charges are currently under 15 years

of age."

The prospect of Knuchel's acquittal is a matter of concern for Chanthol Oung, Executive

Director of the Cambodian Women's Crisis Center which assisted in gathering evidence

against Knuchel.

"If he committed the offenses [he's charged with] and is acquitted anyway, people

in Siem Reap will question the effectiveness of the Siem Reap court," Oung said.

"It's very important that if [Knuchel] committed pedophile [offenses] that he

be convicted...an acquittal will encourage others to come to Cambodia and commit

child sex crimes."

Concern of a surprise acquittal in Knuchel's case prompted Cambodia's Action Committee

on Human Rights (ACHR), a grouping of the Kingdom's human rights organization, to

send a letter to the Swiss Government in late December requesting it take extraterritorial

legal action against Knuchel if he is acquitted by the Siem Reap court.

"We investigated the charges [against Knuchel] and proved that they were true,"

ACHR Chairman Thun Saray of the human rights organization Adhoc said of the motivation

behind the letter.

A Jan 13 attempt made by the Post to meet with Knuchel at his newly re-opened and

renamed Siem Reap restaurant to discuss his upcoming trial was unsuccessful.

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