IMAGE: CHRISTOPHER NEIL
Apichart Weerawong  /  AP
Christopher Paul Neil sits next to a Thai prison official at criminal court in Bangkok on Monday.
updated 3/10/2008 3:24:39 PM ET 2008-03-10T19:24:39

A Canadian arrested after Interpol unscrambled his swirled digital images from Internet photos went on trial Monday in Thailand, accused of sexually abusing a 9-year-old boy.

Christopher Paul Neil, a 32-year-old teacher who worked in several Asian countries, has pleaded not guilty. He was arrested in Thailand on Oct. 19, 2007 after Interpol issued a global appeal to help apprehend him.

Shackled and smiling, Neil waved to a friend and said, "How's it going?" as he entered Bangkok's criminal courthouse. He wore an orange prison uniform, his feet were bare and he was chained to another prisoner.

"I hope there will be justice in Thailand," he told The Associated Press.

Neil is accused of sexually abusing a 9-year-old Thai boy, who contacted police after seeing Neil's face on television following his arrest. The child claims Neil paid him $15 to $30 to perform oral sex in 2003.

20-year sentence possible
Neil faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on charges that include sexually abusing a minor and videotaping the alleged abuse, taking a child without parental consent and holding him against his will.

"We've got the evidence and we have the victim," said prosecutor Sontus Singhapus. "He's guilty."

Prosecutors plan to introduce some 70 photographs that allegedly show Neil engaging in sexual acts and playing with naked or partially clothed young boys, said Sontus.

They also plan to put the victim, now 14, on the stand along with his parents and another boy who recruited the youngster for Neil.

Neil's opening hearing was quickly adjourned after the court assigned him an attorney and set the next session for June 2.

Interpol's public call for help was based on the discovery of some 200 Internet photos believed to show Neil sexually abusing at least a dozen Vietnamese and Cambodian boys, some as young as 6.

The photos were found online in 2004, but the man's face was digitally obscured. After three years, the international police agency was able to unscramble the images with the help of German police computer experts. Interpol circulated the pictures publicly and received hundreds of tips that led them to identify Neil as the suspect.

Neil was arrested 11 days after the Interpol appeal was launched after flying into Bangkok from South Korea, where he had been working as an English teacher. He was caught at the house of his boyfriend, identified as Ohm, in Nakhon Ratchasima province in the country's northeast.

Boyfriend doesn't believe charge
Ohm, who refused to provide his full name, was at the hearing Monday and insisted Neil was innocent.

"How can this be him?" Ohm said. "When I stayed with him, there was nothing like this. I don't believe (the charges)."

Neil has taught at various schools in South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam since 2000. Previously, Neil worked as a chaplain in Canada, counseling teens.

Neil lived in Thailand from 2002 to early 2004, according to police.

Since his arrest, Interpol has said it will allow wider use of public appeals to track suspected pedophiles, trying to build on the success it had tracking down the Canadian.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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