Cambodians convicts Germans of sex crimes

9th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

9 March 2007, Phnom Penh (dpa) - A Cambodian court on Friday convicted two German men and three Vietnamese accomplices of human trafficking and involvement in the aggravated and repeated rapes of children - assaults that they filmed - and sentenced them to a total of 84 years in prison. Anti-trafficking police said the case, which involved dozens of videos and hundreds of computer file images of the men involved in violent sexual acts with the bound and sometimes drugged girls, was one of the most harrowin

9 March 2007

Phnom Penh (dpa) - A Cambodian court on Friday convicted two German men and three Vietnamese accomplices of human trafficking and involvement in the aggravated and repeated rapes of children - assaults that they filmed - and sentenced them to a total of 84 years in prison.

Anti-trafficking police said the case, which involved dozens of videos and hundreds of computer file images of the men involved in violent sexual acts with the bound and sometimes drugged girls, was one of the most harrowing cases of child abuse they had ever encountered.

In handing down his judgement, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Ke Sakhan said the crimes of Karl Heinz Henning Opitz, 61, a Berlin native, and Thomas Von Engelhardt, 42, of Munich against at least four girls, ages 10 to 14, pushed the limits of humanity.

He sentenced Henning to 16 years in prison for debauchery, the Cambodian term for paedophilia-related offences, and another 12 years for human trafficking and said he found Engelhardt less culpable but no less guilty, sentencing him to 12 years in prison for debauchery.

Three Vietnamese - Nguyen Hong Voeng, Cheng Thi Yu and her sister, Cheng Thit Heu - were also convicted of providing the children, some their own offspring, for sex and sentenced to 17, 15 and 12 years in prison, respectively.

"You used US dollars as tools of trickery to allow you to buy other human beings, and Vietnamese people sold their daughters for this money, so, Henning, you deserve to be punished for debauchery and buying human beings," Sakhan said in handing down his judgement to the two Germans, who looked physically ill from their stay in prison since their August arrest but otherwise impassive as the verdict was read.

"Even though he did not buy a girl, Thomas was a participant in debauchery so we have to punish him, too," the judge added.

Henning had claimed at a March 1 hearing that video images of the men subjecting the children to acts of sexual torture had been "doctored" and were not real - a claim Judge Sakhan said Friday was laughable as he expressed his revulsion at their crimes.

"This is very disturbing to the honour, the nobility of humanity, and has seriously damaged the future of these children," Sakhan said.

Not in attendance to hear the verdicts were the men's lawyer, an interpreter or any of the children. Henning said after the hearing that he had not understood the proceedings and appeared to be in shock. He had earlier said he would appeal if convicted.

The mother of one of the victims claimed she was innocent and wrongly charged after she was convicted of selling her daughter despite the evidence and testimony of her own child against her. It was unclear if she or any of her Vietnamese accomplices would appeal.

Police raided Henning's Phnom Penh flat in August and took him into custody after neighbours complained of hearing children's screams. They arrested Engelhardt the next day. Henning jumped several metres from a balcony in an attempt to avoid arrest and later attempted suicide while in custody.

Cuddly children's toys, sexual paraphernalia as well as computer and film equipment and files was among the evidence collected and displayed in court. German police assisted in the investigation and have explored possible links to paedophile rings in Germany, Cambodian police said.

Cambodia, long considered a haven for paedophiles, has made great efforts to clean up its image in recent years, arresting and jailing dozens of foreign sexual predators.

Henning said at his hearing that he had spent "many years" living in Bangkok before moving to Cambodia. Engelhardt had been working as a teacher in Phnom Penh at the time of his arrest.

DPA

Subject: German news

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