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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Chen Chi-li walks free after trial

Chen Chi-li walks free after trial

chen.jpg
chen.jpg

Chen Chi-li is escorted, handcuffed, into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his trial August 10.

The alleged spiritual leader of Taiwan's Bamboo Union gang, Chen Chi-li, walked free

on August 10 after a court hearing lasting six hours. Chen, 59, had spent one year

in jail awaiting trial on various charges.

At the hearing, held at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Chen and two associates were

convicted of possessing illegal weapons. The judge,Ya Sokhon, had downgraded the

charges to a misdemeanor.

He also dismissed several other charges, saying that allegations Chen had set up

an armed group and that he owned a falsified North Korean embassy license plate were

groundless.

Chen and one associate received three-year suspend-ed sentences and five years parole.

The other associate was handed a one-year sentence with five years parole.

Som Chandyna, Chen's lawyer, spoke to a group of journalists outside the courtroom

telling them he was very satisfied with the court's decision.

"[This] judgment reflects the rule of law. This is the first time justice

has been done in Cambodia," he said.

During last year's raid at Chen's house in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kork district, the police

found 20 assault rifles and handguns, an M-79 grenade launcher and 2,000 rounds of

ammunition.

Chen denied ever seeing the weapons in his house and said he only knew of a licensed

pistol used for his personal security.

A Phnom Penh district official, who took part in the raid, said it was absurd that

the court had downgraded Chen's case to a misdemeanor.

"This is a criminal case - Chen Chi-li possessed a pile of weapons. I can hardly

say it has been a fair trial," he said.

Chen, who gave evidence through a translator, said he had come to Cambodia in 1996

to get treatment for a tumor and to assist the country's poor.

"I came here to help Cambodian people," Chen said. "I had no intention

of destroying the Cambodian government."

In 1997 Chen was granted Okhna status - a title bestowed on businessmen who donate

more than $100,000 to good works - and appointed as an advisor to Senate president

Chea Sim.

Chen said he had given money to the Cambodian Red Cross, and to projects for building

schools in rural areas and providing humanitarian aid.

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