Monday, 23 June 2008

N. Zealand man says Cambodian activists fabricated evidence

June 23, 2008

PHNOM PENH - A NEW ZEALAND man appealing his 10-year sentence for sexually abusing Cambodian boys on Monday claimed evidence against him was fabricated by child welfare organisations.

Malcolm Hatfield was convicted of debauchery in 2004 after being convicted of molesting four boys aged 12 to 14.

The 62-year-old hid his face behind a plastic bag as he emerged from a two-hour closed-door hearing at Phnom Penh Appeals Court, and told reporters he had not committed any crimes.

When asked why children had testified against him, Hatfield answered: 'Because some NGOs want to get money.'

However Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), the Cambodia-based child welfare group that collected evidence against Hatfield, rejected his allegations.

'If he is going to make an accusation like that, please show us the evidence,' said Nuon Panith, an APLE lawyer, told reporters.

Mr Hatfield's appeal hearing was previously delayed three times because the court did not have funds for an English translator, said court officials. The verdict of his appeal is expected July 1.

Cambodia has struggled to shed its reputation as a haven for paedophiles, putting dozens of foreigners in jail for child sex crimes or deporting them to face trial in their home countries since 2003. -- AFP

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