Russian conductor rejects Thai rape charges

8th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Acclaimed Russian conductor Mikhail Plentev on Thursday denied raping a 14-year-old boy in Thailand, but vowed to comply with an order to return for a court hearing in 10 days.

Pletnev, artistic director of the Russian National Orchestra (RNO), arrived back in Moscow a day after winning permission from a Thai court to travel overseas after posting extra bail.

"I have committed no crime," Pletnev, looking composed and dressed in an open-necked shirt, told reporters.

"I could not imagine myself in the role of a rapist. I am against all forms of violence, especially when it concerns children."

Pletnev must report back to court every 12 days, meaning the award-winning maestro must return to Thailand by July 18. He dismissed fears that he planned to flee.

"On the 18th, I will be in Thailand because I have to return there. We are all in the hands of God," he told a Russian radio station shortly after his return to Russia.

Pletnev's next scheduled engagement is a performance with his orchestra in Ohrid, Macedonia, on July 12 and the RNO has insisted its performance plans are as yet unchanged.

He was released Tuesday after he posted 300,000 baht (9,300 dollars) bail following his arrest in the Thai resort of Pattaya on a charge of raping an underage boy, a crime which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

The conductor was arrested after police began investigating allegations by the victim that he had been raped by a Thai man and procured on behalf of many foreigners.

The investigation uncovered photos of Thai boys with foreigners, including Pletnev, according to the police. The Thai man has been charged with trafficking, procurement and rape of underage boys.

The decision to allow the conductor to leave Thailand has dismayed local child protection activists, who fear the musician will never return to Thailand.

"I'm really disappointed. He should not have been granted bail," said Supagon Noja, a worker with the Child Protection and Development Center in Pattaya who has been involved in the case.

"I'm absolutely convinced that he will not return for trial. Although he owns several properties including houses (in Thailand) he can sell them through agents," Supagon said.

Pletnev, 53, founded the Russian National Orchestra in 1990 just before the break-up of the Soviet Union and his arrest has sent shockwaves through Russia's musical world.

He first shot to fame as a virtuoso pianist, winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1978 at the age of 21.

In the early 1980s he started conducting and in recent years gave up piano concerts in favour of his increasingly in-demand conducting activities.

His recordings with the RNO of the Russian classics, notably symphonies by Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov, have been hailed by critics.

He is a member of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's advisory council on culture and art and in 2005 won a Grammy award for best chamber music performance.

Thailand is infamous for its flourishing prostitution and child sex trafficking.

It has made efforts to clean up its image and in 2008 expelled former glam rocker and convicted paedophile Gary Glitter to his native Britain after he had served nearly three years in a Vietnamese prison.


© 2010 AFP

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