A BANGLADESHI man and a Nepalese man have been charged with terrorism after the Australian, British and American embassies allegedly received letters in April identifying the two as members of the al-Qaeda terrorist group who were planning attacks on their facilities.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun said Sunday that 42-year-old Bangladeshi man Rafiqu Leslami and 44-year-old Nepalese man TD Taudyal had been charged last week under the Kingdom’s antiterrorism law. If convicted, each could receive between five and 10 years in prison.
“Both men were ordered to serve pretrial detention last week on terrorism charges, pending further investigations,” Sok Roeun said.
Leslami, Sok Roeun said, is facing additional charges for crossing into Cambodia without a passport.
Two other Nepalese men named in the letter – both “local businessmen” – were questioned during the investigation but subsequently released, Sok Roeun added.
National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith could not be reached for comment on Sunday, though he said last week that the letter was a hoax related to a business dispute rather than part of a legitimate plot.
“During our monthlong investigation, we realised that the person who wrote the anonymous letter to the embassies accusing the four men of terrorism was actually just jealous that their restaurants were doing good business,” Kirt Chantharith said.
Sok Roeun said police are now hunting for an additional Nepalese suspect who is believed to have written the letter naming the other four men.
One of the men named in the letter, who was questioned and subsequently released, said Sunday that he had been very surprised to learn that he had been implicated in the case.
“I didn’t know at all about the plan for destroying the embassies,” said the man, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“I have told police officials that I was not involved with members of al-Qaeda and I would not do such a foolish thing.”
He said he had been interrogated along with a friend and fellow restaurateur who had also been released.
He added that he plans to continue to run his business “in a legal way”.