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Groups urge court to drop terrorism inquiry

RIGHTS groups are urging court officials in Kampong Thom province to drop what they say are politically motivated terrorism charges against opposition party members.

A joint statement issued by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia and the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee said the Kampong Thom provincial court’s decision this year to reopen investigations into the charges – which were first filed six years ago – signalled a clear attempt to intimidate the political opposition.

“It is serious to charge these four people with terrorism. The provincial court should reconsider the charges,” said CHRAC chairman Hang Chhaya.

“The story is old, but the court recently questioned the accused, therefore we are concerned that those people are being intimidated.”

The groups said the court laid terrorism charges in July 2004 against Sam Rainsy Party members Kim Hong, a Kraya commune councillor, and Ouk Thorn, a councillor in Prasat Balang district. Two villagers were also charged.

The four had collected villagers’ thumbprints for a petition detailing a rumour that unidentified bandits were planning to inject people with an unidentified substance as they slept, and calling on the Interior Ministry to investigate.

Instead, the court charged the four with terrorism.

The case lay dormant until May, when court officials summoned the four accused for questioning.

The investigating judge in charge of the case, Seng Leang, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said the charges were politically motivated.

“I am not concerned about the terrorism charges against the four men, but I am concerned about the weakness of the court, which still lacks independence,” he said.

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