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Four released in land dispute case

Accusations chief prosecutor was involved in Banteay Meanchey land dispute involving the men

THE Appeal Court has ordered Pursat provincial authorities to provisionally release four men detained since September 6 on charges of destroying public property in a land dispute that has been simmering in Banteay Meanchey province's O'Chrov district since January last year.

"I welcomed the Appeal Court's decision to order their release," said Kav Soupha, the four men's defence lawyer, Wednesday. "The four men ... have been unjustly held in custody for destroying one fence costing just $20." Kav Soupha added that the Appeal Court had also transferred the case to Banteay Meanchey provincial court to prevent duplication in the investigations.

Eng Chhun Han, a coordinator for local rights group Licadho, said that 30 people arrived at the court Wednesday in preparation for the release of Chea Sitha, Chhor Touch, Chum Chanthorn and Morm Sarun from custody.

Sum Nga and Phorn Leap, the wives of two of the accused, told the Post they were both "very happy" for the release of their husbands.

Conflict of interest

Eng Chhun Han was also satisified with the Appeal Court's decision to transfer the case to Banteay Meanchey, adding that the case was only transferred to Pursat because prosecutor Top Chansereyvudth had a "personal stake in the two-hectare land dispute involving the men".

Lawyer Kav Soupha also condemned Top Chansereyvudth for making a small problem a big problem by wrongly charging 20 people with destroying a fence without knowing clearly who was responsible for the action, adding that another 18 people were still hiding in fear of arrest.

Pursat prosecutor Top Chansereyvudth confirmed Wednesday that he had just received a letter from the Appeal Court ordering the men's release but declined to give further details about the case.

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