A pregnant woman who had a miscarriage after being imprisoned has been found not
guilty of theft and had her confession thrown out of court.
- believed to be one of the first-ever in the Cambodian justice system - came
after the woman told the Phnom Penh Municipal Court she was tortured into giving
Kim Phal, 29, a divorcee from Takeo, told the court at
her trial on Dec 10 that she was kept with little food and water,and slapped and
burned with cigarettes by the police.
She said she had considered hanging
herself in police custody. At one stage a policeman had taunted her, saying: "I
thought you would have hanged yourself already".
Court president Judge
Oum Sarith dismissed her confession, the only evidence the police had offered
against her, and said there was no proof of her having committed any
Kim Phal had earlier been freed on bail so she could be
hospitalized, after she began hemorrhaging in the capital's T3 prison. The day
after her release on bail, she had a miscarriage.
She had been arrested
in Phnom Penh on Nov 30 for allegedly stealing property from a house.
Phal told the court she used to be a farmer on Takeo province but, after her
divorce, moved to Phnom Penh to make a living selling vegetables.
said that on Nov 30 she went to a house to look for her aunt, who had moved. She
saw a man leave another house, whose owner later came out complaining about a
The man she had seen pointed to her, accusing her of being the
thief, before he left the scene.
The house-owner called the police and
had her arrested, though she tried to explain that she had seen her accuser
coming out the house.
In tears, she told the court she was taken to a
police station where she denied the theft.
She showed the judge scars on
her hands she said were from cigarette burns the police inflicted on her. She
said was slapped around the face, and her hearing in on ear had still not
She said she was kept in a small toilet at the station for a
day, given only a bowl of water.
She remained there for another five
days, with only one bottle of water to last her that time. She was given food
once or twice a day.
"I thought that if I was still in that terrible
situation only one more day, I would suicide by hanging," she said in her
statement to the court.
After five days she was taken from the toilet by
the policeman who asked why she had not hanged herself by now, and interrogated
Taken to court for the first time, she collapsed on the floor and
told the judge "Yes, I did steal". She said she confessed for fear of being
tortured again if she didn't.
She was sent to T3 prison, where the people
were nice - "they did not torture me" - and treated her wounds.
felt pains in her abdomen and began bleeding, before miscarrying the following
day at Calmette Hospital.
Kim Phal was represented at her trial by Sam
Monnyka from the Cambodian Defenders Project, which had secured her release on
bail from T3 on Dec 14 after staff who visited her noticed her
Sam Monnyka told the court Kim Phal had been at the wrong place
at the wrong time, and that her accuser - the man she had seen coming out of the
house-was probably the real robber.
The court prosecutor said little
during the trial, saying he left the judge to decide on Kim Phal's guilt but her
confession showed she was clearly the robber.
Cambodian Defenders Project
director Francis James said after the trial that the judge's verdict of not
guilty was highly unusual.
If judges wanted to release a defendant, they
usually found them guilty but sentenced them to the prison time they had already
served, he said.
"In this case the judge made a finding of law that she
was not guilty. I thought that was very courageous."
Kim Phal's case
follows that of another pregnant inmate, Keo Ratha, reported in the last issue
of the Post, who was found guilty but sentenced to the prison time she had