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Confessions ‘coerced’

Khmer Krom Buddhist monk Thach Koung (right) arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday
Khmer Krom Buddhist monk Thach Koung (right) arrives at Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Friday. Heng Chivoan

Confessions ‘coerced’

Seven defendants being tried on charges of plotting to overthrow the government accused police on Friday of fabricating their personal statements.

Advocates of the accused Khmer and Khmer Krom men supported those claims yesterday and said they were worried that much of the prosecution’s evidence was extracted from the suspects under duress.

“While in police custody, all of the accused were threatened or forced to thumbprint confessions and statements they did not say,” Ang Chanrith, executive director of the Minority Rights Organization, said. “The men were told that if they confessed, they would probably be released.”

The seven are among 13 suspects facing up to 10 years’ imprisonment for alleged involvement in the Khmer National Liberation Front, a group the government claims planned armed, “hostile acts” against Cambodia and Vietnam.

One of the accused, Yann Yoeub, 25, the younger brother of KNLF president Sam Serey, said that after he was arrested in Thailand last year, he was detained and interrogated for three months at the Ministry of Interior, an allegation officials from that ministry refused to respond to yesterday.

“The police threatened not only my client but all the clients to try to get evidence,” said a defence lawyer who asked to remain anonymous until after the verdict is read on April 11. He added that his client and another defendant were tortured by police after initially refusing to confess.

Warrants were issued for the 13 suspects in 2012, after the group distributed “anti-government leaflets” in Phnom Penh and Takeo, according to Rith Savoeun, the ministry’s deputy chief of internal security.

But advocates of the accused questioned the ministry’s claim that the Denmark-based group conducts terrorist activities.

“They say their movement just wants to advocate for human rights and victims of forced evictions,” Chanrith said.

Defence lawyers said the “limited evidence presented” on Friday included a list of 5,000 KNLF members confiscated from a defendant’s computer. But when interviewed by the lawyers, most on the list, like many of the defendants, said they had no involvement in the group and had only attended a human rights workshop.

“I did not join Sam Serey’s activities, and was not a member of Khmer National Liberation Front,” Yin Yav, a Khmer Krom defendant, said.

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