PHNOM Penh Municipal Court has offered to retry Khmer Civilisation Foundation President Moeung Sonn, provided that he returns from France in time to appear before the court on Tuesday, according to his defence lawyer.
Attorney Sam Sokong said the news of his client’s potential retrial arrived three months after he lodged an appeal at the court.
“I have just obtained a formal notification from Phnom Penh Municipal Court summoning the accused to show up at court for a retrial on November 24,” he said.
“According to the law, if my client fails to show up at the court, the [court] will uphold [its] previous in absentia conviction.”
On July 14, the court sentenced Moeung Sonn to two years’ prison and fined him 15 million riels (US$3,615) after convicting him on disinformation charges. The charges stemmed from comments Moeung Sonn made about a new light-installation project at Angkor Wat, which he feared could damage the ancient temples. He is currently living in self-exile in France.
Municipal Court Judge Chhay Kong said the reasons for the retrial were the court’s “internal affair”, and that he could not say whether Moeung Sonn would be detained if he returned to Cambodia for retrial. He said the retrial would go forward even if the defendant were absent.
Ou Virak, president of Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said it was “very strange” that the retrial was being handled by the Municipal Court rather than the Appeal Court.
“[A retrial] should be done at the Appeal Court, but my analysis is that it is a positive sign – they plan to pardon him or slash his sentence,” he said.
Moeung Sonn could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but Sam Sokong said he was unsure whether his client would return from France for the trial, because he fears being arrested and detained upon his arrival.