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“I have said it many times - it is time to release him. At least temporarily. Because it has been more than six months and by law if you don’t have any evidence to prove that he committed a crime then the court has to consider releasing him. This is political and not about the law,” said former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrath.
Sam Sokong, one of Sokha’s lawyers, has confirmed that the presiding judge has upheld the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision to extend Sokha’s pre-trial detention by six months.
Minutes after the verdict was announced, police and security guards removed barricades along Sothearos Boulevard and security personnel began to leave their positions around the court.
CNRP supporter Pen Chan, attempting to draw a message on the street near the barricades on Sothearos Boulevard, scratched “0+0=8” using a broken piece of tile.
“No matter if you arrest 100 people, you will not get happiness,” he said, but did not elaborate on what the message meant.
He was quickly surrounded by Daun Penh security guards and slapped by their chief, Kim Vutha.
“You have to erase it. There are no politics allowed here,” Vutha said.
After being made to erase the drawing with water, the man was quickly taken away by other supporters.
Defence lawyer Hem Socheat told The Post the hearing has finished after six lawyers presented and the result will be out in about 30 minutes. He still did not know the reason for Sokha’s absence.
Prime Minister Hun Sen discussed Sokha’s case in a speech at a university ceremony this morning.
“There is no negotiation,” the premier said. “I don’t believe this morning the Appeal Court would release the chief traitor because it is a treason case.”
“However, I respect the court decision,” he continued. “If the court releases him on bail, I don’t know what to do. I still don’t believe the court will release the chief traitor. The one who ordered the arrest was Hun Sen. No one else would dare to arrest him if there is no order from Hun Sen.”
Former RFA reporters Yeang Sothearin, 35, and Oun Chhin, 49, have arrived at the Appeal Court in a separate case. Post reporters have been denied access to their hearing.
Appeal Court spokesman Touch Tharith has confirmed that Kem Sokha has not been brought to his hearing.
“But his lawyers still participate to present his arguments in the court,” he said, not detailing why Sokha was not brought to court.
Security guards blowing whistles are continuing to move a group at Wat Botum park that includes Boeung Kak and CNRP activists.
Authorities on loudspeakers have told the crowd they may not gather and should go home.
Daun Penh security guards have pushed back former CNRP lawmakers, supporters and civil society members from barricades set up along Sothearos Boulevard. The small group had congregated in Wat Botum park, but more than a dozen security guards in formation used their whistles to push them back to a newly set up barricade.
“I was just giving an interview to a journalist but it was interrupted by them. If I can give the interview it will not look heated but when they chase me it looks chaotic and bad,” said former NEC member Rong Chhun, who is now a consultant with a teacher’s union.
The guards also snatched posters of Kem Sokha held by opposition supporter Sab Pha.
Roadblocks everywhere, more than last time, ahead of #KemSokha’s hearing. The authority was supposed to bring him to court, but It seems they might not bring him anymore, fearing crowd would show. #Cambodia pic.twitter.com/Ppnq6Wud5f
— Monovithya Kem (@MNVKem) March 27, 2018
Jailed former opposition leader Kem Sokha is due at the Appeal Court today to challenge a decision made in early March to extend his pre-trial detention by six months.
While one police officer told The Post Sokha was brought into the court in the early hours of this morning, former CNRP lawmaker Ou Chanrith said lawyers told him that Sokha was not at the court as of 7am. When Sokha was brought to the capital for a bail hearing in February he was driven in at 5:40am escorted by a convoy of security vehicles.
The Appeal Court entrance on Sothearos Blvd is currently blocked and is being guarded by around two dozen police officers. Unlike during Sokha’s February court date, the public is not being allowed to stand by the second entrance on Sisowath Quay, with the road blocked off between Chaktomuk Theatre and the Royal Palace.
Sokha, the former president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party, has languished in a Tbong Khmum prison since his midnight arrest on September 3 for alleged “treason.” The arrest followed the release of a 2013 video in which Sokha talks with supporters abroad about having received foreign assistance to plan his political career.
Additional reporting by Ben Sokhean