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Suspects not present at paedophilia hearings

PREAH Sihanouk provincial court yesterday heard the case against a convicted French paedophile accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old boy.

Jean Marie Beranger, 61, was arrested in Sihanoukville in September last year on suspicions of abusing the boy. He was later released on bail, but was re-arrested in Kep in December after being accused of sexually abusing two more boys, aged 12 and 16. On June 28, Kampot provincial court sentenced him to a year in prison in connection with the latter charge.

Beranger was absent during yesterday’s trial, but the hearing continued anyway. A verdict is expected on Monday.

Nuon Phanith, a lawyer provided for the victim by child-protection NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said he was “optimistic” that the court would convict Beranger, who faces an additional three to six years in jail if found guilty.

Also yesterday, the court postponed a hearing in the case of a German man charged with committing indecent acts against two boys aged 11 and 14, after the accused also failed to appear at the court.

Walter Orson Novak, 46, was arrested in Sihanoukville in March last year, but was freed on bail after serving a month of pretrial detention.

Nuon Phanith said the defendant did not appear at the hearing yesterday, and expressed concern that he might have fled the country. He said the court could not find Novak’s passport, which should have been surrendered when he was released.

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