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Child sex trial delayed as Russian loses lawyer

Child sex trial delayed as Russian loses lawyer

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Once at the helm of a multimillion-dollar investment, Alexander Trofimov now faces multiple paedophilia trials

AFP

Alexander Trofimov covers his face while exiting Sihanoukville court in August following an appeal against his conviction for paedophilia.

THE second trial of convicted Russian paedophile Alexander Trofimov, due to begin Tuesday in the Sihanoukville Municipal Court, has been postponed, delaying the ongoing judgment of the largest paedophilia case ever prosecuted in Cambodia.

The trial of the 41-year-old, who in March was sentenced to 13 years in prison for sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl, will now start October 13, court officials said.

"We wanted to have the hearing today, but we cannot [as] the accused has informed us that he has no lawyer," Sihanoukville Municipal Court judge Taing Sunlay told the Post Tuesday. "We have no choice but to suspend the case," he added.

Taing Sunlay said that he received a letter from Trofimov's lawyer on Monday informing the judge he would no longer defend the accused.

According to new Penal Code Article 301, a criminal case requires the accused to have a lawyer.

"I wrote to the court one week ago to inform them I would not be able to defend my client on September 23 as I had to go to Vietnam for medical treatment," Trofimov's former lawyer, Ouch Sophal, told the Post Tuesday. "I also informed Mr Trofimov at the same time, and he agreed to find a new lawyer himself before I sent the letter to the court."

Uncooperative defendant?

Samneang Sela, director of the anti-paedophile watchdog group Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), said he was "disappointed and unhappy" with the delay.

This is a waste of time for us ... victims are feeling very disappointed.

"I think the court is willing to have a hearing on this case, but Trofimov has been shown to be most unwilling," he said.  

"This is a waste of time for us as well the police," said Teng Manet, a lawyer working for APLE. 

"The victims are feeling very disappointed; they had prepared themselves to stand before the court today and now they must wait longer for that big moment," he said.

Since Trofimov's March sentence was delivered, 18 other girls have come forward to accuse the Russian of sexually abusing them.

If found guilty, Trofimov could face between 10-20 years in prison per claim.

Trofimov, the former chairman of the Koh Puos Investment Group (KPIG), once had plans to develop an island off the coast of Sihanoukville at a cost of US$300 million.

The delay of the trial, coming just weeks after convicted paedophile Philippe Dessart had his sentence for debauchery slashed from 18 years to just three after being retroactively charged with indecent acts, has concerned local NGOs who are worried Cambodia's recent progress in tackling child sex crime could be backsliding. 

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