A court in Cambodia has allowed seven Westerners arrested last month for allegedly posting photos on social media of themselves engaged in sexually suggestive dancing to be released on bail.
The 10 — from Canada, the United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands and New Zealand — were arrested on Jan. 25 when police raided a party at a rented villa in the northwestern town of Siem Reap and found people “dancing pornographically” at an event organizers called a pub crawl.
Siem Reap is near the famous Angkor Wat temple complex.
A court spokesperson in Siem Reap said Thursday that the investigation of the case has been completed but no trial date has been set. He said three other people remained in detention but he didn’t know their names or nationalities.
‘Eden is a very, very good kid.’
– Eden Kazoleas’s aunt, Donna Kazoleas
A release from the Cambodian National Police in January listed Canadians Eden Kazoleas, 20, and Jessica Drolet, 25, as detained along with eight men from other countries.
CTV News previously reported that Kazoleas is from Drayton Valley, Alta.
“This is really, really concerning,” her aunt Donna Kazoleas told CTV. “Eden is a very, very good kid. She is very outgoing. She doesn’t smoke. She doesn’t drink.”
The accused face up to a year in prison if convicted.
One of the detainees’ lawyers, Sourng Sophea, said last week that some of the photos posted by his clients showed them at a party, 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 pretrial detention.
A Cambodian prosecutor Samrith Sokhon previously said there is “enough evidence to prove that they violated the law and, therefore, they must face charges.”
‘It’s just one mistake’
In a brief video made last week of the detainees, one unidentified man apologized for any offence he might have caused. Declaring that he had lived in Cambodia for two years, he said: “I respect the culture. I help Cambodian children. I help Cambodian families.
“I don’t want to make any problems with Cambodia. It’s just one mistake … I’m sorry.”
Asked by an off-camera interviewer if they wanted to go back to their own countries, several replied “yes” while all nodded their heads.
A journalist for the Phnom Penh Post newspaper, whose website was first to report the release, said on Twitter that the three still detained were from the U.K., the Netherlands and Norway. Ananth Baliga did not identify them by name, but said they were considered the organizers of the event.
Ouch Sopheaktra, another one of the group’s lawyers, said he filed for bail on Monday for the seven who were released, judging that their alleged offences were minor.
He said he had not yet decided to appeal for bail for the other three, because their cases were “a bit more complicated” and he needed more time to consider their situation.
He did not explain further, but there has been speculation that some of the detainees would not seek bail in the hope that would expedite their cases and not leave them trapped in Cambodia for an extended period awaiting trial.
In a statement to CBC News, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said the government is aware that two Canadians in Cambodia have been released, but said it could not provide further details citing the Privacy Act.
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