PHNOM Penh Municipal court officials an-nounced on April 24 that 28 out of a total
of 54 suspects arrested in the wake of the Nov 24, 2000 street fighting in Phnom
Penh would be sent to trial in the coming weeks.
Cambodian-American CFF suspect Richard Kiri Kim (above) is heading for the dock along with 27 others arrested after Nov 24.
The 54 are accused of being members of the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF), a US-based
anti-Communist organization which claimed responsibility for the abortive street
fighting in the early morning hours of Nov 24 as an attempt to instigate a popular
uprising against the government. At least nine people were killed and 14 people wounded
in the melee.
According to Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge Han Meng Se, the court
completed its investigation of the 28 suspects last week and their files had been
forwarded to Court Director Sau Sopheary. Sopheary was uncertain when the trial date
would be set.
Se confirmed that one of the 28 suspects was Cambodian-American Richard Kiri Kim,
an admitted CFF member who has allegedly admitted planning the bungled attacks on
the Ministry of Defense building on Pochentong Boulevard as well as on the E70 RCAF
base. Kiri Kim was arrested on Nov 2*****5 in Siem Reap while attempting to board
a flight to Thailand.
"Richard Kiri Kim is among the 28 CFF suspects being charged with terrorism
and creating an illegal armed group," Se told the Post of the charges facing
the 28 suspects.
The 28 CFF suspects' lawyers, 11 of whom come from the Cambodia Defenders Project
(CDP) and two of whom are from the Cambodia's Bar Association, expressed concern
about the fairness of the court's handling of their clients cases since their arrest.
Defense lawyers complain that their access to the CFF suspects has greatly impeded
their ability to adequately represent their clients in court.
Suon Visal, Chief of Technical Avocats for CDP told the Post on April 26 that CDP
lawyers were successively barred from meeting with CFF suspects at Prey Sar prison
on at least five occasions following their arrest.
Lack of access of lawyers and human rights personnel to the imprisoned CFF suspects
was also one of the concerns raised with the government by visiting United Nations
High Commission for Human Rights Special Representative Peter Leuprecht in February.
Visal said that his efforts to improve access to the CFF suspects, most recently
in a Feb 26 letter to Co-Interior Minister Sar Kheng, have been unsuccessful.
"The CFF suspects have been deprived of their rights because our lawyers have
no access to them," Visal complained. "The municipal court did not provide
[regular access] to us so the trial cannot be fair."
Bun Honn, Secretary General of the Cambodian Bar Association, told the Post on April
26 that his lawyers have also had difficulties in meeting with imprisoned CFF suspects.
"According to Article 80 of the Penal Code, lawyers and their clients have the
freedom to meet at any time," Honn said, blaming authorities for creating "unnecessary
bureaucratic obstacles" to lawyers seeking to meet with their clients.
He accused the government of creating unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles to lawyers
seeking to meet with their clients.
Municipal court officials were unsure when investigations into the remaining 26 CFF
suspects would be completed.