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Heng Pov to face verdict


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Heng Pov after his brief appearance in court on Tuesday.  

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court is set to hand down its latest verdict against former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov and five other men Thursday, in connection with the attempted murder of Military Police Chief Sao Sokha in 2003.

Heng Pov, who while in power was a much-feared police boss, is currently serving a total of 58 years in prison for a battery of convictions, including murder, counterfeiting, extortion and kidnapping.

Five of the six suspects, some of whom are already serving prison sentences for other crimes, were present in court Tuesday for what was the final hearing before the verdicts are handed down.

In addition to Heng Pov, the group included Ly Rasy, former deputy police chief of the Minor Crimes Department, as well as three policemen, Am Samkheng, Hang Vutha and Prum Sorphearidth.

Each of the suspects denied the charge and said military police had tortured them while in custody in an attempt to extract a confession.

Briefly appearing in court this morning, Heng Pov's lawyer Kav Soupha said he could no longer represent Heng Pov because his client was no longer able to pay his legal fees.

Heng Pov had previously petitioned the court to unfreeze nearly a million dollars in assets held in the bank accounts, to allow him to pay legal costs as well as medical and school fees for his three daughters.

Heng Pov's wife and his three other children are currently living in Finland, where Heng Pov was granted asylum in 2007 before being abruptly returned to Cambodia by Malaysian authorities.

Following his arrest, police confiscated Heng Pov's home in Chray Changvar and $300,000 in cash from his house in Takhmao, 10 kilometres south of Phnom Penh, where his 25-year-old daughter Pov Vanna and her sisters live.

In early February, the former police chief wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking that he  "intervene to allow me to withdraw some money from the bank, with forgiveness".

But the courts have so far been unsympathetic to Heng Pov's requests, refusing to allow him access to his funds.

Legal support

During Tuesday's hearing, Heng Pov rejected the order of presiding judge Iv Kimsry that he accept an alternate lawyer provided to him by the court.



"The court can only appoint a lawyer for poor people," Heng Pov said.
"I will not answer the court's questions until I am able to have the lawyer I chose."

Answering questions from Long Dara, the lawyer of the other four suspects, Heng Pov said that he feared revenge from Sao Sokha dating back to a dispute between them at a restaurant in Phnom Penh in 2002.

He said Sao Sokha had urged him to ease his pursuit of drug traffickers in Cambodia, although he failed to elaborate further.

"From that point on, I told my people to note that if I am killed, there is no one besides Sao Sokha who has threatened me," he told the court.

"I would rather not elaborate further over this or I will be killed in prison."

Prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot presented an anonymous letter and the interrogation notes of Military Police as evidence to the court, but Ly Rasy said the charges of attempted murder against the five were baseless.

"There is no proof and no witnesses that can enforce the charges against us, aside from  an unidentified letter and the words of the military who interrogated us, neither of which are credible sources."

Kav Soupha told the Post the case against his client was "a case of revenge" following the strong stance Heng Pov took against corruption during his time as police head.

Long Dara agreed, telling the court there was insufficient evidence to convict his clients.

Heng Pov could face an additional 30 years in prison if convicted of the attempted murder charge. He also faces charges relating to the attempted killing of Koh Santepheap publisher Thong Uy Pang, a case that is expected to reach court later in the year.



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