Court drops German paedophile charges
26 February 2004
PHNOM PENH – A child protection agency blasted a Cambodian court decision to drop paedophilia charges against German national Elmar Bernhard and release him from prison last week, local media reported Thursday.
The English-language Cambodia Daily said that documents signed by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court indicate the debauchery charge against the 61-year-old from Hagan was dropped despite testimony from a 12-year-old girl that he had sex with her twice.
“Some police are very good, but the justice system is still horrible,” Pierre Legros of the child protection organization Afesip told the newspaper.
Bernhard was arrested in late November along with Japanese national Kanae Masato, 54, during a police raid in Svay Pak, one of Phnom Penh’s most notorious brothel districts.
The Daily said Berhard swore in documents signed by court officials that he never had sex with an underage girl.
“The taxi driver told me to get a massage at a parlour in Svay Pak because he said the girls there are skilled. After I got my massage, I was arrested by authorities for no reason,” said his court statement printed in the newspaper.
Testimony from other girls and the brothel’s madam reportedly add that the girl was older than 12 and back up his statement that he did not have sex with her.
Impoverished Cambodia, with its weak and corrupt judiciary, has developed a reputation as a haven for paedophiles.
Deputy head of the German embassy Frank Rukert was quoted as saying Bernhard would be allowed to return to Germany and if sufficient evidence arises in the case he could be tried for paedophilia there.
Subject: German news