Reporters without Borders is calling on the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to quash a seven-year sex-trafficking sentence handed down to French journalist Daniel Lainé late last month, and for Interpol to lift an international arrest warrant against him that is tied to the case.
In early 2012, according to a summary of the events provided by rights group Adhoc, Cambodia requested that Interpol issue a red alert – which essentially operates as an international arrest warrant – against Lainé in connection with his conviction on sex trafficking charges in 2010.
After Lainé’s lawyers successfully petitioned for a retrial, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court reconfirmed the verdict of seven years late last month.
Lainé was unaware of the first conviction, and only learned of it after he was briefly arrested on the red notice while working outside of France in 2012. He returned to France, where he lives now, in circumstances that haven’t been fully explained. His lawyer said that once Interpol issues a red notice, every country is free to respect it or, in the case of France, do nothing.
Should Lainé leave the country, however, which he often has to for work, anything could happen.
Lainé’s legal troubles are connected to a 2003 film he made about the sex tourism industry in Cambodia, which appeared on French television and angered people depicted in it. Adhoc says the documentary had also irked officials who deemed it portrayed Cambodia in an unflattering light.
His supporters say the original complaint against Lainé, which led to the 2010 conviction, came from three women – one of whom says she appeared in the film against her will – and that it had nothing to do with sex trafficking.
“Only one of them mentioned Daniel Lainé: she pretends he filmed her with a hidden camera while she was going home (Sihanoukville) and that she is identified as a prostitute in the French documentary,” said his lawyer, Clémence Witt, in an email from France. “It’s the only element motivating the sentence of seven years of jail for the crime of [pimping].”
In its statement, Reporters Without Borders, which monitors press freedom around the world, called for the “immediate withdrawal” of the red notice, and urged the court to drop the charges.
But Keo Vannthan, head of Cambodia’s Interpol bureau, said that was unlikely to happen.
“Interpol can withdraw it in the case of his arrest or if his jail term ends,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Joe Freeman at [email protected]
With assistance from Cheang Sokha