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Convicted Keeler declares hunger strike

Convicted Keeler declares hunger strike

JOHN KEELER, the 55-year-old former headmaster of Phnom Penh's London School of English

sentenced on November 20 to three years in prison for debauchery, has gone on a hunger

strike to protest against what he alleges is a conspiracy of corrupt court officials

and his former business partners to keep him behind bars.

Keeler's conviction followed his arrest on August 26 for making a pornographic video

of four girls aged between eight and 10 years old in a park in Takmau.

In an exclusive interview with the Post on November 21 from his cell at Kandal Prison

in Takmau, a visibly distressed Keeler said the conviction had sapped him of his

will to live.

"I'm not going to eat until I die," he said on the first afternoon of a

hunger strike. "I don't think I can face another three days here, let alone

three months or three years."

By the Post deadline on November 23, Keeler was continuing to refuse food, prompting

concerns among prison personnel of the possible implications of a foreigner dying

in detention.

"I'm afraid that [Keeler] will die in prison if he continues his hunger strike...

He'll be dead in seven days if he continues," said Kandal Prison Director Muong

Sam Arth.

Sam Arth pleaded for intervention by British Embassy officials to end Keeler's hunger

strike.

Keeler alleges the $5,400 bribe money he paid to have charges against him dismissed

was instead used to ensure he stays behind bars.

According to Keeler, his court defense was sabotaged by threats made against his

lawyer, Chhoy Phally, before his trial on November 21.

"After the trial [Phally] told me pressure was put on her to throw the case...

She said '...my life is worth more than [even] $10,000'."

In a telephone interview on November 22, Phally refused to comment on Keeler's assertions

that her trial performance had been influenced by threats, saying only "Dead

men don't return."

Keeler blames intimidation of his lawyer and the alleged diversion of the bribe funds

designed to buy his release on his business partners at the London School of English,

of which Keeler owns a 25 percent share.

A spokesperson for the London School of English dismissed Keeler's allegations as

"preposterous".

While Keeler expressed contrition about his actions in Takmau on August 26, he continued

to insist he had done nothing wrong and that the circumstances that led him to film

four young girls lifting their dresses and fondling themselves was "spontaneous".

"I filmed girls expressing themselves... I didn't ask or order them, they just

sat down in front of me and started doing it," he said. "The camera

seemed to make them behave that way... They were not frightened, they were very happy

and smiling when they were with me."

Contacted by phone on November 23, Ian Felton, Deputy Head of Mission at the British

Embassy, told the Post the Embassy was unaware of Keeler's hunger strike.

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