Thursday 5 December 2019

Cambodia ‘dirty dancers’ should be expelled, not jailed – lawyer

The detainees – including five Britons – face up to a year in prison if convicted, with any trial likely to happen within the next few months.

The 10 Westerners, pictured after they were arrested for “dancing pornographically” (Cambodian National Police/AP)
The 10 Westerners, pictured after they were arrested for “dancing pornographically” (Cambodian National Police/AP)

By Sopheng Cheang

Ten Westerners arrested in Cambodia for allegedly posting photos online which showed them engaged in sexually suggestive dancing should be expelled from the country for causing offence to Cambodian morality, rather than jailed, one of their lawyers has said.

The 10 — five of whom were from the UK — were arrested last Thursday when police raided a party at a rented villa in the north-western town of Siem Reap and found people “dancing pornographically” at an event organisers called a pub crawl.

Siem Reap is near the famous Angkor Wat temple complex.

Among the eight men and two women arrested were Britons Vincent Harley Robert Hook, 35, Daniel Richard Leeming Jones, 30, Thomas Alexander Jeffries, 22, Billy Stevens, 21, and Paul Francis Harris, 32.

Also detained were Dutchman Job Robertus van der Wel, 22, Canadians Jessica Drolet, 25, and Eden Koazoleas, 19, along with Norwegian David Nikolaus Aleksandr Ballovarre, 22, and 32-year-old New Zealander Paul Martin Brasch.

The detainees face up to a year in prison if convicted, and if they go to trial, it would likely happen in the next few months, one of their lawyers, Sourng Sophea, said.

He said the families of some of the detainees have contacted him by phone from overseas, but none had come yet to visit.

Two other lawyers have joined the defence, and visited the detainees in jail on Tuesday. One of them, Chhouy Sopheak, said the 10 were in good health and detained in acceptable conditions. He said they denied any wrongdoing.

Sourng Sophea said some of the photos posted by his clients showed them at a party, with some drinking by a swimming pool and some of the women in bikinis, but none showed them having sex or exposing themselves. According to the law, he said, they should be deported or have their visas cancelled, but should not be held in pre-trial detention.

“I admit that they have done something wrong according to morality in Cambodian society, but their crimes did not warrant them being charged or put in jail,” Sourng Sophea said.

He added that when the 10 had been taken into custody but not yet charged, he sent a three-page note to the Siem Reap provincial police and prosecutors, asserting that they had not committed any serious wrongdoing, were innocent of producing pornography, and should be released, but he was turned down.

PA Media

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