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Appeal Court rejects request of RFA journos to drop bail terms

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Uon Chhin (left) and Yeang Sothearin have been told that they no longer have to appear at their local police station every month, despite their battle in Appeal on Friday. Heng Chivoan

Appeal Court rejects request of RFA journos to drop bail terms

Despite losing their battle in the Appeal Court on Friday to have their bail conditions removed, two former Radio Free Asia (RFA) reporters were told that they no longer had to appear at their local police station every month.

Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin were appealing to have their bail conditions removed, including not leaving Cambodia or changing their address as they await trial on espionage charges.

Chhin was also seeking the return of video equipment seized in the investigation to help provide for his family, while Sothearin said he has been unable to work due to the court’s supervision order.

The two RFA reporters were detained on November 14, 2017, and charged with the “provision of information undermining national defence to a foreign state” under Article 445 of the Criminal Code for allegedly providing information causing damage to national security.

They face between seven and 15 years in jail if found guilty.

Chhin and Sothearin were accused of attempting to continue reporting for the US-based RFA after it shuttered its operations in Cambodia. They were released on bail in August.

Despite ruling against the pair, saying the requests didn’t comply with Cambodian law, RFA reported on Friday, the Court of Appeal said they did not have to visit their local police station every month as the investigation phase of their case concluded in February.

Chhin said on Sunday that he and Sothearin told the judge at Friday’s hearing that they were requesting that the court lift the bail conditions so they could support their families.

“We requested that the court remove its supervision such as the ban on going abroad and visiting the police station once a month. We also asked for the return of items impounded by the authorities. We did not demand anything more than this,” Chhin said.

Chhin and Sothearin’s defence lawyer Sam Chamroeun on Sunday said their request to have their bail conditions removed had been rejected by Judge Thou Mony in a hearing lasting more than an hour.

Chamroeun said he would discuss with his clients whether to file a complaint with the Supreme Court.

“Judge Thou Mony said the request made by Chhin and Sothearin had not been accepted by the Appeal Court,” he said.

Sothearin and Chhin said before Friday’s hearing that their requests were being made to enable them to find jobs to support themselves, as well as give them the opportunity to study abroad.

“I think if the court understands our actual situation, they should drop the supervision. If they want to pursue their investigation, it is up to them, and we will continue to cooperate with the court at all times. We will appear whenever they need us to,” Sothearin said.

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