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2 women jailed in Cambodia, accused of dirty dancing, returning to Canada

Eden Kazoleas was among 10 people arrested for allegedly posing in photos deemed 'pornographic'

February 09, 2018

This photo, dated Jan. 25, 2018, was issued by Cambodian National Police, showing a group of unidentified foreigners accused of 'dancing pornographically' at a party in Siem Reap. (Cambodian National Police via AP)

Two Canadian women who spent almost two weeks in a Cambodian jail are expected to arrive in Toronto on Friday evening with the lawyer who helped secure their release.

Eden Kazoleas, 19, from Drayton Valley, Alta., and Jessica Drolet, 26, from Ottawa, were among seven westerners released Wednesday.

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"The understanding that I have is that the charges have been dismissed," said Michael Tibollo, a lawyer involved with the Ontario firm representing Kazoleas. "They were provided their passports, and they were permitted to leave the country."

Eden Kazoleas has been documenting her travels on her personal Instagram account. (Eden Kazoleas/Instagram)

The women were among 10 foreigners arrested Jan. 25 when Cambodian police raided a party at a rented villa.

The group had taken part in a pub crawl organized by a local hotel then ended up at the villa rented by one of the groups, said Tibollo.

Three of the 10 people arrested remain in jail, he said.

The group was in Siem Reap, an area of Cambodia that attracts many young tourists because it is inexpensive, said Tibollo, who likened it to Cancun, Mexico.

"What underscores the situation here is, what we consider to be normal behaviour is not seen that way everywhere in the world," he said. "This situation, it sounds like it got out of hand."

It's alleged the group took pornographic pictures. But the only photograph linked to the Canadian women was one of an exposed breast, Tibollo said. The image in the picture didn't look like either of the women, he said.

"The evidence they had was circumstantial," he said. "The judge dismissed it."

In this photo dated Jan. 27, 2018, issued by Cambodian National Police, a group of foreigners stand after they were arrested for "dancing pornographically" at a party in Siem Reap. (Cambodian National Police via AP)

Tibollo said his daughter, Frances Tibollo, also a lawyer, heard about the case and reached out to the Kazoleas family.

"She lived there [Cambodia] for a year, she worked there and is very familiar with the legal system," said Tibollo.

His daughter felt compassion for the girls "being in the wrong place at the wrong time," he said.

'Cautionary tale'

The conditions in Cambodian jails differ greatly from Canadian jails, said Tibollo.

The Canadians were in a room with about 45 other women and were given little food, he said.

"When they got out, my daughter said they ate enough food for five people. They were very lucky to get out."

Tibollo said the story was a cautionary tale parents should pass on to their children before they travel to foreign countries.

"When you go to another country, you've got to understand that their boundaries are different than our boundaries," he said. "You have to be cognizant of the fact that your activities could get you into trouble if you cross those boundaries."

The Canadian women and Frances Tibollo are expected to arrive in Toronto on Friday on a flight from the Philippines.

With files from Roberta Bell
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