Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Child sex hearing adjourned as alleged victim flees court

Child sex hearing adjourned as alleged victim flees court

Child sex hearing adjourned as alleged victim flees court

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090220_03.jpg

American national accused of abusing a 13-year old girl, but man's defense lawyer claims local police concocted charges.

Photo by:
HENG CHIVOAN

Richard David Mitchell outside the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday.  

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court suspended its hearing of an American accused of underage sex crimes Thursday after his alleged victim ran from the courtroom midway through the proceedings.

"I suspended the hearing with the consent from both the defence and victim's lawyers,"said Judge Chan Madina. "I could not continue questioning the victim, who seemed nervous."

US national Richard David Mitchell, 61, was arrested August 28 by Wat Phnom commune police while abusing a 13-year-old Cambodian girl at the Wat Phnom Public Park, police said at the time.

Samleang Seila, executive director of anti-paedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, said the court charged Mitchell with soliciting sex from a minor and indecent acts against an underage individual on August 31.

But defence lawyer Dun Vibol denied his client had committed the crime, accusing local police of concocting the story to press charges against his client, whom he claimed was pick-pocketed by his alleged victim.

"I will fight in the court to prove that my client was innocent and has not committed indecent acts under the law," he said.

He added that during its Thursday hearing, the court had dismissed the first solicitation charge, leaving the accusation of indecent acts, which carries a potential jail term of between one and three years.

Teng Maneth, the victim's lawyer, said that she would let the court make its decision about the case, adding that after Mitchell's arrest, his case had been forwarded to the Ministry of Interior's Department of Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection for investigation.

She said a new hearing was likely to be held shortly, as Mitchell was experiencing health problems in detention.

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