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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Extortion suit names Ratanakkiri court director

Extortion suit names Ratanakkiri court director

THE director of Ratanakkiri Provincial Court and a court clerk are being sued on allegations they tried to extort US$500 from a local woman in order to expedite the trial of her son, who has served two years in pretrial detention, a rights worker said Sunday.

"This is a serious breach of the law on pretrial detention - two years without a hearing is too long, and now there is the suggestion of extortion," said Pen Bonna, the provincial coordinator for Cambodian rights group Adhoc.

After receiving a complaint from the mother of the accused early last week, Pen Bonna filed two lawsuits on behalf of the family Thursday against court director Lu Su Sambath, who is also a judge, and his clerk Yorn Thorn, to the Supreme Council of Magistry and the Ministry of Justice for alleged extortion.

He told the Post Sunday that the complaints had reached Phnom Penh, and that he was waiting for a response.

Keo Seila, 18, was arrested June 1, 2007, after his family complained to the court about his drug use and an assault that had occurred, his aunt, Meas Sophea, told the Post.

"After one week his mother and I visited him in prison, and he told us that he stopped using drugs and asked us to help him get out of prison," she said.

"When I met the court clerk he told us to find $500, but I said we had no money," she said, adding that she didn't know how serious the charges against her nephew were but feared the worst.

On May 6, 2009, she returned to the court and was again told by the clerk that her nephew would neither be released nor have a hearing until the family paid $500.

Passing the blame  

The court clerk in question admitted that money had been demanded, but denied it was extortion.

"I just obeyed my boss's [Lu Su Sambath's] order to ask for $500 to conduct a hearing soon," Yorn Thorn said.

"However, I will make a schedule to inform my boss to conduct a hearing more quickly," he added.

Lu Su Sambath declined comment, telling the Post he was too busy to speak to a reporter. 

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