Yim Sopheap, 40, wept in court on Tuesday as the Appeal Court ordered him to recount events that lead to accusations that he had raped two minors in 2016.
“I did not know the two girls and did not commit any illicit act on them. I have been in jail for more than three years and no one has been taking care of my elderly mother. Please find justice for me,” he said.
Sopheap told the court that he rented a part of a home belonging to the victim’s adopted mother in Takhmao commune, Kandal province.
There, he lived with his wife and children and they had taken over the landlord’s food stall business when police had wrongfully arrested him on December 24, 2016, he told the court.
The two victims, both 10, said that Sopheap had molested them on several occasions.
“When I came to wash dishes, uncle Sopheap gave me candy and dragged me into the storage room and he put his finger into my genitals. He did this five times. Each time he threatened me not to tell anybody,” one victim said in court records.
The second victim told police that the Sopheap fondled her chest three times in his home, the court record said.
“I did not care about it at the time and no one else saw it,” the girl said.
The mother filed a police report after her adopted daughter’s teacher told her that the girl had come to class with a blood-stained skirt.
When the mother queried the girl about its cause, she said that Sopheap had forcefully penetrated her with his fingers. The teacher did not testify in the lower court.
The Kandal Provincial Court sentenced Sopheap to eight years in prison for rape and ordered him to compensate three million riel to each of the victims in June 2017.
His defence lawyer, Im Mach, argued that if the accused had allegedly not penetrated the victims with his penis then he should only be charged with sexual assault, rather than rape.
Prosecutor Sar Yos Thavarak said the eight-year sentence should stand because the alleged victims were consistent with their account of the attacks.
Judge Chan Madina said: “If you [Sopheap] didn’t commit the crime, the girls would not have accused [you] because children are very honest.”
Mach argued that Sopheap couldn’t have abused the girls as the crimes were said to have been committed at noon and there would have been a lot of witnesses.
“The court must not only find justice for the victims, but the convict too,” said Mach.
Judge Pol Sam Oeun said the Appeal Court will announce its verdict on September 17.