Doctor jailed 25 years for causing HIV outbreak

BATTAMBANG (Cambodia) • An unlicensed Cambodian doctor, who infected more than 270 villagers with HIV via the reuse of unclean needles, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Yem Chrin, 57, was arrested in December last year after most of his patients tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes Aids, and accused him of transmitting it via the reuse of unsterilised needles.

"The court found Yem Chrin guilty of committing torture with aggravated circumstances," said Presiding Judge Yich Chheanavy, announcing the verdict at a court in Battambang province yesterday.

It also ordered him to pay between US$500 (S$700) and US$3,000 in compensation to each of the more than 100 victims who had filed the complaints. Yem Chrin was facing the prospect of life in prison, but his murder charge was reduced by the court to a lesser manslaughter offence, his defence lawyer said.

"My client still insists he is innocent," lawyer Em Sovann said by telephone after the verdict was announced. "I will represent him if he wants to appeal this conviction."

Yem Chrin admitted to routinely reusing syringes, but denied intentionally spreading the virus.

Some of those who were infected testified at the trial. Mr Loeum Lorn, 52, said he and four of his family members contracted HIV. "We are his (the doctor's) victims, but it was only later on that we discovered we were infected," he told reporters last month.

The authorities detected the epidemic on Dec 9, when they started tests in Battambang province's rural Roka commune. They found more than 270 cases, the court heard, with one victim aged just two, and others in their 80s.

XINHUA, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2015, with the headline 'Doctor jailed 25 years for causing HIV outbreak'. Print Edition | Subscribe