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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Chea Vichea case reopened

Chea Vichea case reopened

Court says 2004 killing of trade union leader remains unclear.

THE Appeal Court has ordered further investigations into the 2004 killing of trade union leader Chea Vichea, following requests from the defence lawyers of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, the two men accused of the killing.

"This case is still not clear, which requires us to conduct further investigations involving some police in relation to the [slaying]," presiding Judge Chuon Sunleng said after the two-hour hearing. He ordered that suspects Born Samnang, 28, and Sok Sam Oeun, 41, remain free until the investigation is closed and a verdict handed down.

During a two-hour hearing on Monday, the two men again protested that they were not involved in the killing of Chea Vichea, accusing the police who arrested them in 2004 of forcing them to confess to the crime.

"The Appeal Court's decision was very fair and just for us, and we received about 80 percent justice," Sok Sam Oeun said after the court session.

"[We are] grateful ... to local and international NGOs for investigating our case and to our lawyers for pursuing justice for us from the beginning to the end."

Hong Kimsuon, Sok Sam Oeun's defence lawyer, said the court's decision was "acceptable" but called on judges to lift the charges altogether.

"There is no credible evidence or witnesses to bring charges against them," he said, adding that, according to Article 38 of the Constitution, any doubts in a case should be resolved in favour of the accused.

Rights groups reacted to the court verdict by also calling for the release of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun.

"I believe there were more perpetrators involved in the case besides the two men, who were just the hired killers, and I urge the court to conduct a
thorough investigation to hunt for other men who were behind the case," said Chandara Piseth, a lawyer from Legal Aid of Cambodia who was representing Chea Mony at the court.

Am Sam Ath, a technical supervisor for human rights group Licadho who attended the court hearing, said the decision to re-evaluate the case was laudable, but also called for the exoneration of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun.

"Based on the law, the two men should have the charges of premeditated murder lifted completely because hearings in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, the Appeal Court and Supreme Court have confirmed that there were not enough evidence and witnesses to press charges against them," he said.

Unsolved case
Chea Vichea, former head of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, was gunned down on January 22, 2004, while buying a newspaper near Wat Lanka.

Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were convicted of the crime the same year, but the Supreme Court ordered their provisional release in December 2008 citing contradictory evidence in their previous trial.

Union leaders and Chea Vichea's family have said they consider the two men innocent of the charges, and they both took part in a five-year memorial service in January.

The two men were fake killers, and i urge the court to find the real killers.

Chea Mony, Chea Vichea's brother and president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said he remained convinced that Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun were innocent of the killing.
"I maintain my stance from the beginning and acknowledge that the two men were fake killers, and I urge the court to find the real killers," he said, accusing policemen, including jailed former police head Heng Pov, of involvement in the killing.

"I am ready to take responsibility and dare to be imprisoned for my conclusion about my brother's murder case, which is that the government prepared a plan to kill my brother," he said, adding that his brother had received two warnings by text message before he was gunned down.



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