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Kem Sokha’s defence describes ‘tense atmosphere’at treason trial

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Former opposition leader Kem Sokha greets his supporters as he leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on January 25. Hong Menea

Kem Sokha’s defence describes ‘tense atmosphere’at treason trial

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court held another hearing in the treason trial of Kem Sokha, former leader of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodian National Rescue Party (CNRP), with his defence team again protesting their client’s innocence.

Following the June 1 hearing, Chan Chen, one of Sokha’s defence lawyers, told reporters that the atmosphere at the 42nd hearing was tense. The prosecutor had asked his client a number of questions, and he had answered them. The questions were related to the charge of conspiring with foreign powers to topple the government.

Chen said his co-defence lawyers Meng Sopheary and Pheng Heng had posed questions of their own to the prosecutor in an attempt to substantiate the charge.

“They asked him to identify the foreign powers they believe he was conspiring with, and sought to establish whether they knew of some agreement he had made to do so. In my opinion, no foreign agency – or state – tried to conspire with my client,” he said.

Chen added that the prosecutor pursued questions about Sokha’s past actions, but the former opposition leader was not interested in discussing them. He explained that after the 2013 general election, an agreement had been made which ended all pre-election issues. Regardless, all of his past actions were legal, and done within the legal framework of the time, he added.

“As far as I see it, we heard questions at this hearing, but heard very few facts. Short, heavily edited video clips were played, but the complete unedited hour-long videos clearly show that our client is not guilty of the charge,” he added.

Municipal spokesman Plang Sophal told The Post that it was normal for questions to be exchanged. He said hearings often grew very tense while the prosecutor was asking questions about offences or introducing evidence which established that the offence took place.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the case seemed to have become drawn-out, which could mislead those members of public who could not distinguish between a criminal case and a political one.

He suggested the court speed up the case, lest it become a political trap.

The next hearing is scheduled for June 8.


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