Graham Cleghorn….victim of injustice in Cambodia?

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ABC News
June 1 2006

Girls change story in Aust rape case

Six Cambodian girls whose testimony put an Australian in jail for 20 years on rape and sexual abuse charges have changed their story and asked an appeal court to free him.

They have accused the Cambodian Women's Crisis Centre of persuading them to testify that Bart Lauwaert hired them as maids, then raped and abused them sexually.

They say the crisis centre convinced them to lie to get money out of the 39-year-old Australian.

One of the girls aged between 12 and 14 when the alleged rapes occurred, Savy, told the appeal hearing: "We were told to blame Bart so that we will have some money from him".

The hearing was attended by Australian diplomats four years after Lauwert was jailed.

Judge Thou Mony says the girls could be jailed for up to two years if found guilty of false testimony.

"If you have falsified your statement and made him get 20 years in jail, that is a very serious thing," he said.


Charge denied

The crisis centre denies the charge.

Its director, Ung Chanthol, says the girls have changed their story because they were upset they had not received the $A26,700 compensation the court ordered Lauwert to pay.

"The court told the children it had passed the compensation money to us for the children but that is not true, so the children are now angry with us," she said.

"It is a funny thing to hear that.

"We have helped them all the way to win the case but now they've changed their minds.

"We never forced them to put the blame on the Australians."

After leaving the court, Lauwaert said: "I hope we get justice for me and for all of the young women".

"I have never broken the law in Cambodia, never, and I ask the judges to please free me."



Lauwert was arrested in Siem Reap, the main Cambodian tourist town near Angkor Wat, along with English teacher Clint Rex Betteridge.

Betteridge received a new passport and fled to Australia, where he was jailed pending a decision on extradition.

He was sentenced to 10 years in jail in absentia.

In January, the Australian newspaper reported he was still in an Australian jail pending a decision on whether he should be extradited back to Cambodia to serve the sentence.

The three-judge bench says it will announce its verdict on June 9.

Judge Thou Mouny was recently appointed to the bench for trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders.