The year is 1945 and Cambodian men are packed into traditional longboats, ready to race each other in an event that “has been going on for more than 1,000 years” at the annual Water Festival in Phnom Penh.
The American missionary Daniel Johnson, who was arrested on Monday for child sex crimes committed in the U.S., was questioned at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday but faces further questioning today before being charged, an official said.
The suspect stands accused of raping five young boys at the Home of Hope orphanage in Meanchey district’s Boeng Tampun commune, which is just one of a number of Cambodian projects run by the Christian evangelical’s organization, Hope Transitions.
Deputy prosecutor Seang Sok said he questioned Johnson at the court Thursday, but said that the defendant would return today because more time was needed for questioning.
“I will continue to question him [today] because I have not yet completed the full procedure of the court,” he said.
Pol Pithey, director of the Ministry of Interior’s anti-human trafficking police department, said Wednesday that the case against Johnson was complicated because the allegations of abuse only came to light as part of an initial investigation into child sex crimes committed in the U.S. led by the FBI, which is seeking his extradition.
The lawyer representing Johnson, Tuot Lux, confirmed that his client would return to the court today for questioning but said it is unclear whether there is enough evidence to charge him.
“Right now he is accused of child abuse, but there is not any evidence to charge him with apart from the testimony of the children, and if their testimony is flawed it will affect the outcome,” he said.
Yi Moden, deputy director of field operations for the NGO Action pour les Enfants, which helped track Johnson down and assisted Cambodian authorities with interviews at the orphanage, said that he expects him to be charged today.
Johnson’s five alleged victims have been moved from the Home of Hope orphanage into the care of Hagar International Cambodia, while the remaining 24 children have been placed with French NGO Aspeca, which has a number of orphanages in Cambodia.
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