Municipal Court to retrieve damages in defamation case, government lawyer says
A WEEK after it upheld a defamation conviction against Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Mu Sochua, the Supreme Court is set to hand Phnom Penh Municipal Court the responsibility for pursuing nearly US$4,000 in fines and compensation levied against the outspoken government critic.
Ky Tech, who filed the lawsuit against Mu Sochua on behalf of Prime Minister Hun Sen in April 2009, said Thursday that the Supreme Court would send the verdict to the Municipal Court next week.
“I want it soon, but we must do it according to the procedures of the law. We cannot skip through the procedure quickly,” he said.
In August, the Municipal Court found the Kampot parliamentarian guilty of defaming Hun Sen and ordered her to pay 16.5 million riels (around US$3,975) in fines and compensation, a verdict that was upheld on appeal in October, and then again by the Supreme Court last week.
Since her case first went to court last year, Mu Sochua has repeatedly stated that she will refuse to pay the fine, and that to do so would be an admission of guilt.
Ky Tech said Thursday that if Mu Sochua continues to defy the verdict, she could be arrested and imprisoned.
“If the court has decided that she is guilty, but she does not comply, it is impossible – she must comply. If she does not follow the court’s decision she could be imprisoned,” he said.
When contacted Thursday, Supreme Court Judge You Ottara declined to comment on the case, but he said earlier this week that Phnom Penh Municipal Court would be responsible for taking action to enforce the ruling against Mu Sochua.
Municipal Court deputy prosecutor Sok Roeun also declined to comment, except to say he has not yet seen a written order from the Supreme Court.
The case dates back to April 2009, when Mu Sochua accused Hun Sen of defaming her in a speech earlier that month in Kampot province. The prime minister then filed a defamation countersuit, and Mu Sochua’s accusations were thrown out by the Municipal Court in October.
When contacted Thursday, Mu Sochua again confirmed she would not pay the fine and faulted Ky Tech for trying to hurry the court along.
“Do not imprison me so fast. There are many cases where others have not followed the court’s decision but the courts have not imprisoned them,” she said.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, confirmed that the usual procedure was for punishment to be handled by Phnom Penh Municipal Court, which first convicted Mu Sochua on the defamation charge.
“For a fine, this is the duty and obligation of the court and prosecutor,” he said. He added that Mu Sochua would likely receive around 60 days in which to pay the fine following a formal request from the court, after which she risked being held in contempt of court.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SEBASTIAN STRANGIO