Photo by: Pha Lina
Suspected British paedophile Matthew John Harland arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court today.
Thursday, 17 February 2011 19:22 Buth Reaksmey Kongkea
Phnom Penh Municipal Court concluded its trial today against a British national accused of purchasing sex from two underage girls.
The 38-year-old suspect, Matthew John Harland, was arrested last May in a Meanchey district guesthouse on suspicion of purchasing child prostitution and committing indecent acts in 2006.
Presiding judge Kor Vandy said a verdict would be announced on March 10.
“We hope that after this final hearing, we will find the truth and issue the right verdict for him,” he said.
Keo Thea, director of the municipal Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Office in the Ministry of Interior, said the suspect was arrested after the two girls’ families filed complaints against him through the NGO Actions Pour Les Enfants. He also accused the suspect of producing hundreds of photos of child pornography in the country.
Nuon Phanith, a lawyer provided by APLE to represent the victims, said the suspect paid them between US$50 and $100 for sexual acts.
“According to two victims’ testimonies, they both had sex with him at least three times in 2006,” he said.
Harland maintained his innocence at today’s trial, saying: “I did not have sex with [the girls].
“I have known them from along the riverfront in Phnom Penh, where they sold books,” he said. “Later, we kept in touch and rented a tuk-tuk and went to swim at a water park with several other girls in Phnom Penh.”
In December, the municipal court sought further investigation in the case, citing a lack of evidence necessary to convict.
Under the Law on the Suppression of Human Trafficking and Sexual Exploitation, Harland could face between seven and 15 years in prison if convicted of purchasing child prostitution, and up to three years if found guilty of committing indecent acts.