Lawyers representing former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha have expressed disappointment over the Supreme Court’s decision to deny the politician bail.
During the second bail hearing for his release on Wednesday, the Supreme Court instead upheld the Appeal Court’s decision on the matter. Sokha, 64, was not present in court when the decision was delivered.
Judge Kong Srim, who is also the Supreme Court president, said he upheld the verdict as it was based on law.
The court further decided to extend Sokha’s detention for another six months, despite his lawyers’ pleas that Sokha’s health condition was deteriorating and he needed urgent surgery.
“There is no problem because all prisons in Cambodia have medical experts who are specialists . . . who can offer him treatment."
“In addition, his health condition is not getting worse. Therefore, there is no reason for him to be released,” said Srim.
Sokha was charged for conspiring with foreign powers based on Article 443 of the Criminal Code after his midnight arrest on September 3, last year. He was then sent to the Trapaing Plong Prison.
Currently, in pre-trial detention, he could be incarcerated for up to 30 years if found guilty under the charge.
According to the defence, the prison health officials did not have sufficient medical experience and the facility was ill-equipped to carry out surgery.
His lawyers also claimed that Sokha was suffering from a pinched blood vessel on his back and shoulders that requires immediate surgery. If not treated soon, it could further aggravate his health problems.
One of Sokha’s lawyers, Pheng Heng, said before the hearing that he had high hopes the bail request would be successful.
“In fact, as Kem Sokha’s lawyer, I am very disappointed after hearing the verdict, but it is the court’s decision,” Heng said.
During the bail hearing, some observers and former CNRP politicians shared different opinions on the issue.
Former CNRP board director Prince Sisowath Thomico said nobody could predict the future. “I am not a fortune teller and I cannot predict when Kem Sokha will be released.
“In this situation, the CPP’s [Cambodian People’s Party] strategy is to reduce the political pressure, so they released some activists. I think that is not the case here. Its strategy is to break the people’s solidarity,” Thomico said.
Political analyst Kim Sok who was recently released from prison said sooner or later Sokha will be freed because of the international community’s pressure and other potential punishment facing Cambodia.
Separately, investigating judge Ham Mengse has ordered Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM) president Sam Rainsy, who currently lives in France, to appear at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on September 13 to answer charges of “insulting the King”.