French 'Sex Tourist' Convicted of Child Rape

A Frenchman on trial in a landmark court case was found guilty today of child rape during a “sex holiday” in Thailand and sentenced to seven years in prison.

In his final words to the court before the jury retired to consider its verdict, 47-year-old Amnon Chemouil broke down and apologized to the girl, now 17, for stealing her childhood.

“I want to tell the victim that the guilty party, and that is me, bears all the responsibility for what happened. She did nothing, either by her actions or her words, to encourage me to do anything,” Chemouil said between sobs.

“I hope that these words will bring her a little peace and help her rediscover the childhood I stole from her,” he said.

The court also ordered Chemouil to pay damages of 50,000 French francs ($6,500) to the girl, who was 11 when the Frenchman forced her to perform oral sex in a hotel room in the Thai beach resort of Pataya in February 1994.

UNICEF Tracked Down Victim

Chemouil, a public transport worker from Paris, was the first person to stand trial before a French jury under a law passed in 1994 to combat “sex tourism.” It allows suspects in rape cases involving minors abroad to be prosecuted in France.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), a civil plaintiff in the case, tracked down the Thai girl and paid her trip to Paris for the trial.

UNICEF estimates that some 2 million children around the world are pressed into prostitution, including 400,000 in Thailand alone.

Chemouil had faced a maximum 20-year prison term. State prosecutor Evelyn Lesieur sought a 10-year sentence, saying the accused should not be turned into a scapegoat.

Chemouil’s lawyer, Francois Rozenbaum, asked for a maximum five-year prison sentence and obligatory therapy.

Evidence at the trial included a videotape of the girl’s molestation found in a search of Chemouil’s apartment. Prosecutors say it was filmed by one of two Swiss men who were with Chemouil at the Thai resort.

Chemouil was arrested in 1997 after Swiss police probing a pedophile ring alerted French police. He has already spent eight months in detention.