THE Appeal Court upheld a guilty verdict against 63-year-old Swede Johan Brahim Escori, who was sentenced to six and a half years in prison in January for child sex crimes.
The court’s decision followed an article that appeared in a Swedish newspaper on Wednesday in which an unnamed 63-year-old Swede being held for sex crimes in Cambodia reportedly bragged about paying a US$11,000 bribe to court officials to secure an acquittal at a Friday hearing.
At the hearing, presiding judge Nhoung Thol produced a printout of the article, published by Stockholm’s Svenska Dagbladet newspaper, and questioned Escori about its contents. Escori admitted having granted a recent interview to a Swedish journalist but denied he had discussed bribery.
“I’ve never had so much money in my life,” he said.
“The journalist asked me, ‘Is the Cambodian court system corrupt?’” Escori said. “I told him I did not know anything about this.”
The unnamed Swede in the Svenska Dagbladet article boasted that a “common, simple bribe of $11,000 means that I will soon be a free man”. He said that he had been coaching his alleged victim to offer supportive testimony at the appeal hearing.
“I am training him so that he says the right things and does not contradict himself,” the man reportedly said.
Martin Schibbye, the writer of the article, said in an email last week that he had the conversation on tape.
Judge Thou Mony said the Appeal Court would open an investigation if the bribery charges were substantiated.
Escori was arrested in May 2009 in the capital’s Daun Penh district, where he was sharing a hotel room with a 9-year-old Cambodian boy who he said was his adopted son. He was convicted on two counts of committing indecent acts and having sex with children after allegedly abusing the boy in Phnom Penh and two others in Preah Sihanouk province.
Escori’s “son” testified against him at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in January. On Friday, however, he recanted this testimony and spoke in support of Escori. “During the time I lived with him, he never did anything bad to me or sexually abused me,” the boy said. He also said he was not 9 years old, as law enforcement officials originally said, but 14.
Nhoung Thol was unconvinced by this change of heart. “You are lying because you are frightened,” he told the boy.
Samleang Seila, director of the child rights group Action Pour Les Enfants, accused Escori of providing financial support to the boy’s family
in exchange for favourable testimony.
A law enforcement official, who was not authorised to speak to the media and requested anonymity, said Escori had also been convicted of child sex crimes in Sweden during the 1980s.
Ham Phea, Escori’s defence lawyer, described the verdict against his client as “unjust”.
“He did not do anything like what he is accused of, and the boy said my client is a good father,” he said.
Ham Phea said yesterday that he would meet with Escori this week to decide whether to appeal to the Supreme Court.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SAM RITH