A British man who has spent five years in prison for raping a 17-year-old girl requested Monday that the Appeal Court grant him a retrial and the chance to present evidence that has not come before the court, which he says will prove his innocence.
In May 2011, David Fletcher, now 71, was convicted in absentia of rape and sentenced to 10 years in prison on the basis of a statement from Yang Dany, a girl he knew through his unregistered NGO, which assisted poor families living at a Phnom Penh dumpsite.
Mr. Fletcher was in a Bangkok prison at the time—arrested by authorities there a week after U.K. tabloid the Mirror published an article accusing him of using his NGO to access young girls, and two weeks before a rape complaint had been filed in Cambodia by the victim’s mother.
After being extradited to Cambodia in October 2013 and sent directly to prison, Mr. Fletcher missed the 15-day deadline to file an appeal, and has therefore been unable to present his case in court, including a medical examination by a court-appointed doctor who found that Ms. Dany remained a virgin after the two alleged rapes.
In court Monday, Mr. Fletcher and his lawyer, Lim Eang Ratanak, explained how a deputy prosecutor handling the case had met with the defendant on October 17, 2013, to read him the verdict for the first time—thus activating the 15-day deadline—and arranged to meet him again before it had expired to get a decision on an appeal.
“I never saw the prosecutor again,” Mr. Fletcher told the court.
After 10 days, he said, he wrote a letter requesting an appeal and gave it to the chief of Phnom Penh’s PJ Prison, Hou Puthvisal, who pledged to see it reach the court.
“It transpired that the prison chief failed to deliver my appeal. He has written a statement to my lawyer saying he had forgotten to deliver my appeal,” Mr. Fletcher said.
Mr. Eang Ratanak, the lawyer, declined to show reporters the alleged document and also declined to comment.
Mr. Fletcher also claims he was not in the country on March 15 and March 22, 2009, the dates of the alleged rapes.
San Sony, a lawyer from anti-pedophile NGO Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE) who is representing the victim, and Hing Bunchea, the Appeal Court prosecutor, urged the judges to disregard Mr. Fletcher’s claims and focus solely on the fact that he had missed the deadline. “The time to appeal has passed,” Ms. Sony said. “The defendant is just making excuses.”
In October last year, Ms. Dany and her mother, Keang Sokun, recanted the rape allegations to reporters, saying that APLE had told them they would receive $5,000 compensation if they made the claims.
“APLE knew that Dany was not raped,” Ms. Sokun said.
Outside court Monday, Ms. Sony conceded that the doctor’s report suggested Ms. Dany was not raped but said the facts of the case were irrelevant at this point.
“I deny to focus on this fact of the case because my director…didn’t allow me to,” she said. “This case only involves procedure.”
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Yang Dany was 16 years old when she was raped. She was 17. The article also incorrectly stated that the rapes occurred in 2010. They occurred in 2009.
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