A Dutch plantation owner on trial for concealing evidence of his Vietnamese boyfriend’s alleged torture of a toddler denied on Wednesday that he had prior knowledge of the crimes or assisted his partner in fleeing the country, according to officials.
Stefan Struik, 53, was arrested in December after allegedly helping his boyfriend Nguyen Thanh Dung, 34, flee his Mondolkiri province cacao plantation to Vietnam.
Stefan Struik, left, and Nguyen Dung appear in a video posted to YouTube in January.Video footage posted to Facebook allegedly shows Mr. Nguyen torturing a small boy, including shocking the child’s genitals with an electric prod. Police later established the video had been shot on Mr. Struik’s plantation, where the boy’s parents lived and worked.
During questioning in court on Wednesday, Mr. Struik said he didn’t know about the abuse until after the videos were leaked to Facebook, according to an Interior Ministry police officer who spoke on condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized by the ministry to discuss the case with the media.
Mr. Struik admitted to encouraging Mr. Nguyen to flee to Vietnam, but denied assisting him, the official said.
“He wanted Mr. Dung to go to Vietnam in order to file a complaint with Vietnamese police in search of a relative of Mr. Dung who shot the videos with him,” the official said, referring to Mr. Nguyen.
Police accused Mr. Struik of encouraging Mr. Nguyen to seek more lenient sentencing in Vietnam, which Mr. Struik denied, the official added.
Mr. Nguyen was arrested by Vietnamese authorities upon arrival in Ho Chi Minh City. A total of 49 videos were found on his telephone, some of which police said shows him torturing the then-2-year-old boy.
Mr. Struik, who also holds Cambodian citizenship, faces charges in the Mondolkiri Provincial Court for “omission to file a complaint against the mistreatment of a minor” and “concealment of evidence.”
Both charges carry sentences of between one and three years in prison and a fine of up to 6 million riel, or about $1,500.
Mr. Nguyen was also tried on Wednesday in absentia for torture under aggravated circumstances, the Interior Ministry officer said. His verdict would be sent to Vietnamese officials and would be enforced if he were to attempt a return to Cambodia.
The date for the verdicts for the two men had not yet been set, the officer added.
Court clerk Lay Lycheng confirmed that Mr. Struik had been on trial on Wednesday but could not be reached for further comment. Mr. Struik was returned to provincial prison on Wednesday evening to await the verdict, according to deputy provincial police chief So Sovann.
In February, the victim’s mother said Mr. Nguyen would not be extradited to Cambodia to face charges. Vietnamese authorities have since visited Cambodia to gather information but had not divulged details about his trial, police said earlier this month.
soumy@cambodiadaily.com
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