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Russian maestro in Thai court on child sex charge

PATTAYA, Thailand - Agence France-Presse | 7/19/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Russian conductor Mikhail Pletnev appeared in court Monday in Thailand where he has been charged with raping a teenage boy.

Russian conductor Mikhail Pletnev appeared in court Monday in Thailand where he has been charged with raping a teenage boy.

Pletnev, artistic director of the Russian National Orchestra, dismissed speculation he might jump bail. He returned to Thailand over the weekend after being allowed to leave the country temporarily to attend a music festival in Macedonia.

"I have always stated that I will assist the police in every way I can with their enquiries into the allegations that have been made against me," Pletnev said in a statement to media outside the court in the resort town of Pattaya.

"I say again these allegations are not true," he said, adding that police had found no incriminating images on his computer.

The conductor and pianist was charged in early July with the rape of a 14-year-old boy in Pattaya, where he has a house.

He denies the charge, which carries a sentence of up to 20 years in jail, and was released after he posted 300,000 baht ($9,300) bail.

The award-winning maestro was allowed by a Thai court to travel overseas after posting extra bail but is required to report back every 12 days.

"I have been asked to appear in the court in another 12 days. I wish to make it clear that I shall be here for that appointment," Pletnev said Monday. "I hope everyone now accepts that I am a man of honor and I am a man of my word."

Local child protection activists had voiced concern about whether the musician would ever return to Thailand.

Pletnev, 53, founded the Russian National Orchestra in 1990 just before the break-up of the Soviet Union and his arrest has sent shock waves through Russia's musical world.

He first shot to fame as a virtuoso pianist, winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1978 at the age of 21.

He is a member of President Dmitry Medvedev's advisory council on culture and art, and in 2005 won a Grammy award for best chamber music performance.

While in Macedonia this month Pletnev told a press conference that his arrest was a "set up".

"A big company wants to present me as a criminal, which I am not," he said, without elaborating.

The conductor was arrested after police began investigating allegations by the victim that he had been raped by a Thai man and procured on behalf of many foreigners.

The Thai man has been charged with trafficking, procurement and rape of underage boys.

Thailand is infamous for its flourishing prostitution and child sex trafficking.

It has made efforts to clean up its image and in 2008 expelled former glam rocker and convicted pedophile Gary Glitter to his native Britain after he had served nearly three years in a Vietnamese prison.

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