An Australian teacher jailed for 15 months in Cambodia for indecently assaulting six boys is back home vowing to clear his name in a case that smacks of a concerted extortion attempt by Siam Reap police, NGOs and the government.
Garry Mulroy, 64, flew out of Phnom Penh for Australia over the weekend after spending a week in a safe house in the Cambodian capital. His release had been shrouded in secrecy amid fears of reprisals.
Mulroy was acquitted last year of engaging in child prostitution, which carries a 15-year term, after NGO Action Pour Les Enfants, which made the allegation, dropped legal representation. Police chief Col. Chea Heng of the Anti-Human Trafficking and Juvenile Protection Division in Siem Reap also failed to attend any of the hearings.
Instead Mulroy was found guilty of indecent assault and sentenced to two years behind bars where he shared a cell measuring five square meters with 22-30 inmates.
Prosecutors appealed, insisting Mulroy was guilty and Mulroy’s defense also appealed to the provincial court in Battambang.
A full bench upheld the acquittal and stunned the prosecution with a sentence reduction on the lesser charge to one year plus one year suspended. Mulroy had already served 15 months behind bars, which he added was “horrible,” and was freed.
The Catholic teacher claims he never touched any of the boys and was the victim of a racket to extort up to US$100,000.
He said police had wanted him to pay at least $60,000 to a lawyer of their choice and one NGO he worked for demanded $10,000. Meanwhile, $12,000 in cash he kept at home in Siem Reap disappeared.
“Those boys stood up in court and said they hadn’t touched me and I hadn’t touched them,” he said from the safe house before fleeing the country.
Defense backed by independent report
Mulroy’s claims were backed by an independent report commissioned by his defense and undertaken by Australian risk management adviser Ross Milosevic. Copies were sent to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, members of his cabinet and the Australian Federal Police.
Milosevic’s report said police interviews with the boys were not conducted with any adult supervision, nor were there any lawyers present. It noted that any evidence garnered from the boys was made “under extreme duress, intimidation and extortion” which was designed to secure charges against Mulroy and were a bid by police, NGOs, judiciary and government officials to extort money.
“The charge of indecent assault is ridiculous because all the boys have said three times in the prosecutor interview, investigative judge interview and directly in court that they were never touched by Garry,” Milosevic said.
The report also detailed how Mulroy had upset two local NGOs responsible for child care and that he had raised concerns over the misallocation of donor money.
This resulted in sponsors, including corporates and small donors, withdrawing their support. He then initiated his own NGO, Education House, with six boys aged 11-14. Petty rivalries erupted between the NGOs and his arrest followed.
“So this was done to shut me up,” he said, adding he had stopped donations from reaching corrupt NGO workers.
“Once someone says you’re a pedophile, it doesn’t matter what you say, you’re guilty and everything you’ve ever done in your life was for an evil reason — and not because it was an unrequited good deed,” Mulroy said. “That’s what hurts. That was the most painful part of being in prison.”
A longer version of this story first appeared on UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner.