The Appeal Court on Tuesday postponed a hearing for Oeut Ang, the former soldier convicted of killing political commentator Kem Ley, as prison police had not brought him to court because of confusion over his summons letter.
Ang, who in past court appearances has repeatedly given his name as “Choub Samlab”, or “meet to kill”, was convicted and received a life sentence last March for premeditated murder and illegal gun possession. He is appealing his sentence.
Ley was gunned down in July 2016 as he drank coffee at a Phnom Penh petrol station. The murder led to a national outpouring of anger and emotion, with many observers calling it a politically motivated killing.
At the Appeal Court, a panel of three judges had Ang’s hearing listed among a docket of seven other cases. But as it became clear Ang was not in court, they delayed the hearing before eventually addressing his absence.
Presiding Judge Chay Darasovann said Prey Sar Prison officials had received a summons, which was signed acknowledging its receipt.
But Lor Kim Ghech, Ang’s newly-appointed lawyer, said prison officials claimed not to have received the summons.
“They said they have not received the summons and may not bring him,” Ghech said. He said Article 300 of the Criminal Procedure Code requires a defendant to be present at their hearing.
While Judge Darasovann said the trial could proceed without Ang’s presence because a lawyer was present, he agreed with the defence and prosecutor’s request to postpone the hearing.
“Because this is the first appeal hearing and the accused is not present the panel agrees to this request,” he said, after a five-minute deliberation.
Also absent was Ley’s widow, Bou Rachana, who the court again listed as the plaintiff in the case. Rachana has repeatedly said she has not filed a complaint and has been dismissive of the court’s proceedings.
She and her five sons were recently granted asylum in Australia.
“I know clearly that the courts in Phnom Penh do not have the ability to arrest the real killers and to find justice for me,” she wrote on Facebook last week, reacting to her summons for the appeal hearing.