The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday sentenced an Australian engineer to two years in prison after altering its charges against him from purchasing sex with a minor to unlawfully moving the 15-year-old girl against her will, a court official said.
Presiding judge Duch Kimsan said that the sentencing of Paul Codognato, 68, on altered charges came after a closed hearing, the content of which remains confidential.
In an earlier, open hearing in September, the 15-year-old girl said that in March, Codognato had raped her twice without a condom and then gave her $10.
Codognato said at the hearing that he had not had sex with the girl, maintaining that he brought her to his house after she told him she was thirsty and out of kindness gave her water, food and money.
“She told me that she was 18,” he added.
Kimsan said the time the defendant had already spent in jail since his arrest in March would count toward his sentence.
Had he been convicted on the original charge, he would have faced five to 10 years in prison.
Codognato’s defence lawyer, Dun Vibol, told the Post yesterday that he would accept the court’s verdict and would not appeal the decision but nevertheless urged the court to release his client.
“He acted out of charity,” he said.
Seila Samleang, director of Action Pour Les Enfants, said that it was common for Cambodian courts to alter charges against defendants, particularly if the defendants were foreign, often due to threats against witnesses that led them to change their testimony.
To contact the reporter on this story: Lieng Sarith at [email protected]