Rights workers have called for further investigations into a case involving two men who were released without charge on Saturday after being questioned by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on suspicion of illegally detaining a beer garden hostess and sexually abusing her for two days.
The suspects – the 39-year-old brother of a tycoon and a 45-year-old military officer – were arrested on Friday, a day after the alleged victim escaped from an apartment belonging to one of the suspects in Russei Keo district. Police said on Sunday that they had confiscated condoms, methamphetamines, pornography and a sex toy from the apartment.
Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said he was surprised the court had not charged the men.
“From our long-term experience, it is rarely encountered that police officials fail to send suspects to court for further interrogation ... when evidence is found,” he said.
“There might be some irregularities in the case.”
A Russei Keo police official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, alleged on Monday that the suspects had paid bribes to senior police and court officials to secure their freedom.
“The two men should have been punished for their illegal and brutal acts against the victim, but instead senior police officials conspired with court officials and accepted a bribe from the suspects,” he said. The officer added that less senior police officials were offered insufficient amounts to secure their complicity in the cover-up.
“We police officials were offered only US$10 each,” he said. “It was too small an amount because [the crime] was very unjust.”
Court deputy prosecutor Chet Khemara said on Tuesday that though the suspects had not been charged, investigations were ongoing.
“We are still proceeding with the case, which we cannot drop,” he said. He also denied accepting any money to facilitate the release of the men.
However, Chet Khemara said the woman’s claims of abuse would not be investigated because she had admitted to accepting money to have sex with the men.
He also said there was a “lack of evidence” to charge the two suspects with drug use and that a substance confiscated from the apartment – originally thought to be methamphetamines – had turned out to be a common cooking ingredient.
Soam Bunny, Russei Keo district police chief, also denied police took bribes in the case.
Ath Sam Ath called on officials to continue investigating the case, including the woman’s claims that she was detained and sexually assaulted.
“Though she is a prostitute who agreed to have sex with the men after negotiating a price of $50 per night, she was held for up to two nights and forced to have sex against her will,” he said.