The provincial court in Battambang sentenced 18 men accused of membership in the
outlawed Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) March 25 to prison terms of between seven
and 18 years.
One man was tried in absentia. Defense lawyers representing six men claimed the police
had tortured their clients and forced them to confess.
Judge Chhay Kong convicted the accused, four of whom are members of the royalist
Funcinpec party, on charges of belonging to an armed group and plotting acts of terrorism
with the aim of toppling the government.
"This hearing was not satisfactory," said Thach Reng, defense attorney
for three convicted Funcinpec members. "The evidence brought against the suspects
Reng, a former member of parliament for the Buddhist Liberal Democratic Party, said
the court used as evidence a list of names from a computer, along with allegedly
forced confessions, CFF flags, weapons and explosives. He said a military court should
have dealt with the case as his clients were accused of military crimes.
"My clients claimed they were chained and beaten by the military police,"
said Reng. "They had scars on their bodies, and said they lost about 60,000
baht (around $1,200) and a few damleung of gold when the military police raided their
houses. However, the judge did not address their complaints."
Another defense lawyer, Hong Kim Suon, said his three clients had also been tortured
to extract confessions.
"They told the judge that the military police beat them and forced them to write
their confessions," Kim Suon said. "They were told that if they did not
confess they would not be freed."
"I feel very sorry for them as they are very poor," said Reng. "For
the sake of national unity, I would like to ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to write a
letter to the King requesting amnesty."
The three convicted Funcinpec members were Nem Sopheap, who received 14 years in
jail, Sou Sang, who will serve 13 years, and Hang Nhong, who received eight years.
Reng said that some of those convicted were former Khmer Rouge, and added that the
arrests of his clients, between November and December last year, was done without
Kim Suon is defending another Funcinpec member accused of belonging to the CFF in
Banteay Meanchey's province court. The verdict in that case is due April 2.
The latest convictions bring to almost 100 the number of people convicted of belonging
to the CFF, which staged an abortive coup attempt in the capital in November 2000.
That attack left eight dead and a dozen wounded.