SIEM Reap provincial court on Thursday heard the case of a 39-year-old Canadian national accused of engaging in indecent acts with three underage boys, though the suspect failed to appear, and lawyers for both sides said they feared he had fled the country after being released on bail last year.
James Gant was arrested in February 2009 in a guesthouse in Siem Reap town on suspicion of sexually abusing three street children aged between 10 and 15 years. His lawyer, Sun Socheat, said Gant had been released on bail after being held for “a few months” in pre-trial detention.
He told the court that he did not know the whereabouts of his client, and speculated that he may be overseas.
“I don’t know the whereabouts in Cambodia or overseas, as he has not contacted me since his release on bail in 2009,” he said.
Peng Maneth, a lawyer for the alleged victims provided by child protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said she, too, didn’t know where Gant was.
“If he is found guilty, we will request the court to send a verdict letter to the embassy or Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prosecute the accused if he has fled the country,” she said.
Sun Socheat denied the charges against his client on Thursday, saying that only two of the three boys had appeared in court, and that their statements had been inconsistent.
“There were only the testimonies from two of the boys, which have changed during every level of interrogation,” he said.
All three are seeking US$3,000 in compensation. Judge Ith Sothea said a verdict would be handed down this morning.