The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Thursday concluded questioning Kem Sokha on his negotiation with Sam Rainsy in the Philippines to found the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP).
Sokha is being tried for treason on a charge of conspiracy with foreign powers.
During the hearing attended by US Ambassador Patrick Murphy, the court heard Sokha’s version of events as he defended himself against allegations that he conspired with a foreign power to topple the government.
Murphy left the court 20 minutes into the hearing and 10 minutes before the judge announced a recess.
Outside the court, Murphy told reporters that the US has been following the proceedings. The case, he said, has deep implications for the rule of law in Cambodia and the Kingdom’s foreign relations policy.
“Sokha has a very well deserved reputation around the world as a champion for rights and freedoms. We look forward to seeing his political rights restored just like we look forward to seeing all Cambodians participating in the political process,” he said.
The ambassador said it was troubling to see that a conspiracy theory involving the US has been fabricated.
“Here is the truth. The US has distributed almost $3 billion in recent decades in assistance to Cambodia, including transparent assistance to strengthen institutions and political parties in line with the Cambodian Constitution.
“My government has made it abundantly clear that the US has never thought to interfere in Cambodia’s governance. We fully respect Cambodia’s independence and sovereignty.
“We do, however, support freedom of expression and active civil society. These are vital components of democracy,” he said.
US Embassy spokesperson Emily Zeeberg said in an email that Murphy attended the hearing on Thursday only as an observer.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said, “No one accuses the US of being behind Sokha, not even the government.
“The case is still in the hands of the court. Kem Sokha is the one that involved the US,” he said.
Earlier, Sokha told the court that he has always adhered to the principle of non-violence. He had no intention to stage a revolution or bring down the government by shedding Cambodian blood.
Sokha said his work with Rainsy was aimed at changing the country’s leadership through a democratic process, in line with the Constitution.
Trial chamber president Judge Koy Sao announced a new hearing to consider additional evidence about political campaigns and election results.