Two Canadian women released from a Cambodian jail after facing charges of producing pornographic images have returned to home soil.
Eden Kazoleas, 19, of Alberta and Jessica Drolet, 26, of Ontario, landed at Toronto’s Pearson airport Friday night, accompanied by Canadian lawyer Frances Tibollo, who helped negotiate their release.
“I’m very happy to be home, I’m grateful to be in Canada,” Kazoleas said. “I look forward to seeing my family and my parents, who have done absolutely everything they could to bring me home.”
The pair were among seven Westerners arrested last month after Cambodian police raided a commercially organized party at a rented villa.
Kazoleas and Drolet – along with nationals from the United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands and New Zealand – were alleged to have been featured in, or to have taken, photos that portrayed sexually suggestive dancing.
But the photos that Cambodian authorities said had been taken at the party were, in fact, from several years ago – long before Kazoleas or Drolet ever set foot in the country, Tibollo said.
In a brief news conference at the airport, Kazoleas thanked Cambodian authorities for their “understanding” throughout the ordeal.
“I did not know, nor did I think attending a pool party would be offensive in Cambodian culture,” Kazoleas said.
“I apologize to anyone who thinks it was, but…. when I attended the party I was not taking part in any pornographic dancing or anything the media suggests I was doing and I am very disappointed in the way I was represented.”
Drolet also thanked the Cambodian authorities and said she didn’t mean to offend anyone by attending the party on Jan. 25 in Siem Reap.
She also thanked Tibollo who, she said, “treated us more like sisters than clients.”
Kazoleas and Drolet both said having each other’s support made the situation more bearable.
“I was lucky to have Jessica in there with me,” Kazoleas said. “As much as I wish she didn’t have to go through it, I couldn’t have done it without her.”
Tibollo’s family was at the airport to greet the women as they returned but Kazoleas and Drolet’s were not.
Some of their loved ones had intended to be at the Pearson arrivals gate but were delayed because of the weather, Tibollo’s father said.
The two Canadians were jailed for more than a week and kept in a cell with more than 45 other women, Tibollo said.
Police originally detained almost 90 people, but only 10 were held in custody.
Of those, only three remained in detention as of Friday. A court spokesman in Cambodia said he didn’t know their names or nationalities.