Russian conductor on child sex charge back in Thailand

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Acclaimed Russian conductor and pianist Mikhail Pletnev has arrived in Thailand, where he is due to appear in court after being charged with raping a teenage boy, an embassy official said Sunday.

"I can confirm for sure that he is in Thailand," Andrei Dvornikov, chief of the consular section at the Russian Embassy in Bangkok told AFP.

The conductor and pianist was charged in early July with the rape of a 14-year-old boy at the southern beach resort of Pattaya, where the musician has a house, a restaurant and a music school.

Pletnev, artistic director of the Russian National Orchestra, denies the charge, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail.

A Thai court allowed him to travel overseas after he posted extra bail, but required him to report back to the court every 12 days, starting from Monday, although it was unclear when he would appear in court.

Dvornikov said he understood the musician would go to the court with his lawyer on Sunday, but the musician had not contacted the embassy, and legal sources in Pattaya said the hearing was likely to be postponed to Monday.

After leaving Thailand Pletnev told a press conference in Macedonia -- where he travelled with his orchestra for a music festival -- that the affair was a "set up".

"A big company wants to present me as a criminal, which I am not," Pletnev said, without elaborating.

"Nowhere in the world I did anything wrong. On the contrary, I have done a lot of good things in Thailand, which inhabitants there could tell about," Pletnev said, adding hopes that "justice will prevail".

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.

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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