The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Monday decided to send the case of two people charged with trafficking a 13-year-old deaf, mute and HIV-positive girl to a brothel back to the investigating judge so that he could examine video footage that one suspect claims provides her with an alibi.
Em Sophea, 44, and Lounh Chan, 28, were tried earlier this month, and a verdict was originally expected Monday. However, Presiding Judge Te Sam Ang delayed the verdict because Ms. Sophea claimed that she had been gambling at the time of the alleged crime.
“The court has decided to send this case to the investigating judge for reinvestigation and to look at NagaWorld Casino video security footage,” Judge Sam Ang said in court.
Ms. Sophea had testified that she was not at home in June, when it is alleged that the victim, an AIDS orphan who lives at the New Hope for Cambodian Children NGO in Kompong Speu province, visited Ms. Sophea’s daughter—a school friend—at her home before going missing for two days.
Upon her return to the NGO, the girl told staff that she had been sent to a brothel in Phnom Penh’s Tonle Bassac commune and raped, which subsequent medical tests confirmed.
“I was not at home when the victim was there; I was gambling at NagaWorld,” she said in court.
Under Cambodian law, it is illegal for Cambodian citizens to gamble at casinos.
Sok Phalla, the NGO’s executive director, who filed the complaint against the pair, said Monday’s decision highlights the “hopelessness” of the court system.
“I cannot believe this court system,” he said. “The victim herself said that it was Ms. Sophea who sent her to a brothel.”
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