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In Detention, Russian Investor Shares a Cramped Cell

PHNOM PENH - Preah Sihanouk provincial court on Wednesday began questioning Russian real estate investor Sergei Polonsky and two other men over charges they illegally held a Cambodian crew on a boat and then forced them to jump overboard off the coast in December.

The six Cambodian crew members have dropped their civil complaints against Polonsky, following promises of a $20,000 payout, but the criminal charges against him remain.

Til Piseth, a translator for the men, told VOA Khmer Wednesday they had denied the charges against them. “Everybody told the court they don’t know” when questioned, he said.

After questioning on Wednesday, the three men were returned to custody at the provincial prison.

Tan Sareth, the deputy warden of the prison, told VOA Khmer by phone Wednesday that the men are being treated fairly and equally with other Cambodian prisoners.

Polonsky, who is seeking release on bail, shares a room with the two other Russian men and two Cambodian prisoners, Tan Sareth said.

One of his fellow prisoners in the 3-meter-by3-meter cell is an alleged drug dealer, and he has a small television that allows him to watch local channels, Tan Sareth said.

“He stays directly on the cement floor with a thin mattress to sleep on,” Tan Sareth said. “He has no problem sharing the room with other Khmer prisoners. When it’s time to go back into the cell, he goes. The environment is fine, as we have a toilet inside where they can take care of themselves.”