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Trial against two accused in rape-murder

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Chhoeuy Socheat (second from left) and Phlek Sony are escorted to the Appeal Court on Wednesday. Kim Sarom

Trial against two accused in rape-murder

The Appeal Court on Wednesday heard the 2017 case of two men accused of raping and killing a girl in Bavet commune’s Ta Pov village in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet town. They had earlier been sentenced to life in prison by the provincial court.

Chhoeuy Socheat, 36, a taxi driver, said on August 2, 2017, Good Luck Casino employee Sovann Sokdalin, 18, got on his cab to go downtown.

Socheat said Phlek Sony, 32, another taxi driver, called him to ask if he had a pretty passenger to which Socheat confirmed.

Upon arriving at Chiphou market in Bavet town’s Prey Angkunh commune, Sony who was waiting for Socheat told him to stop the car so he could grab a ride with them.

On the way, Socheat said Sony strangled the victim and proceeded to rape her.

“At the time, I told Sony to stop but he didn’t listen to me. I felt aroused later on so I stopped the car and raped her, too. After raping her, Sony pushed her into the water and laid stones on her so she would sink.

“I ask the court to reduce my sentence and only be asked to pay $5,000 in compensation,” said Socheat.

However, Sony denied the allegations and asked for his immediate release.

Roeun Sreylot, the victim’s mother, told the judge that she had called her daughter several times on the day of the incident but could not reach her. On the same day, she filed a missing persons report at the provincial police station.

Sokdalin’s body was found two days later. “I ask the [Appeal] Court to uphold the verdict of the Svay Rieng Provincial Court,” said Sreylot.

Court records said the police had arrested the two men in August 2017. The two were sentenced to life imprisonment on August 23 the following year under Article 205 of the Criminal Code. They were also ordered to jointly pay $60,000 in damages.

However, prosecutor Nget Sarath said Sony remained adamant in denying the accusations against him at the judicial police station, before the investigating judge and even at the Appeal Court.

Sarath said he believed Socheat was the one who raped the victim first as it had happened in his car, and he did not stop Sony from following suit.

“If [the Appeal Court] convicts those who are innocent or have not admitted to the allegations, then it would be unfair. I hope the Trial Chamber would deliberate properly regarding Phlek Sony’s sentence.

“But I believe Svay Rieng Provincial Court’s verdict against Chhoeuy Socheat must be upheld,” he said.

Uk Sisaket, the plaintiff’s lawyer said the evidence and answers of the two accused had corresponded closely to witness testimonies.

The Appeal Court should uphold the verdict of the provincial court, she said.

Meanwhile, Sony’s lawyer Chhy Sambath said Socheat laid the blame on his client, adding that the provincial court failed to consider Sony’s statement. “So, I ask the Appeal Court to please release my client”.

Socheat’s lawyer Ean Sam Ath said his client had come clean about his wrongdoing, so his willingness to confess must have bearing on the reduction of his sentence.

Trial Chamber president Sin Visal said a verdict would be handed down on February 19.

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