Cambodia’s Appeal Court on Tuesday postponed a decision on the legality of the detention procedures used against two former Radio Free Asia journalists arrested for “espionage”.
Yeang Sothearin, 35, and Oun Chhin, 49, were arrested on November 14 on suspicion of reporting to RFA, the US-funded news organisation that shuttered its in-country operations last year amid a broader crackdown on press freedom.
Sothearin and Chhin were charged four days later, an apparent violation of Cambodian law that states that a person cannot be held in police custody without charge for more than 48 hours.
When a felony is involved, police detention can be extended to a maximum of 72 hours with the written permission of a prosecutor.
Sothearin and Chhin were charged with providing “a foreign state with information which undermines national defence”, which carries a prison sentence of seven to 15 years.
The pair’s lawyer, Keo Vanny, said the prolonged detention was illegal. He has sought to invalidate the detention procedure at the police station, claiming police had not sought proper permission.
“If police want to detain them [for a time] exceeding more than 48 hours, they can only do so on agreement of prosecutor,” Vanny said.
It remains unclear as to when exactly the two were sent from police custody to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
Presiding Judge Sin Visal heard the arguments on Tuesday but postponed a decision until April 4.
Sothearin’s brother, Yeang Vina, 44, said the pair should be released unless some real evidence was unearthed.
“They still don’t find evidence to accuse my brother and Oun Chhin," he said. "There is no real evidence against them.”
No trial date has been scheduled.