Acting opposition president Kem Sokha’s appeal of a five-month sentence for failing to appear before a lower court was rejected by the Appeal Court on Friday, leaving the embattled leader one Supreme Court decision away from potentially being imprisoned.
Sokha – who was summonsed in May to testify in a procurement of prostitution case against two fellow lawmakers – was sentenced to five months by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in September for refusing to appear before the court.
Hem Socheat, Sokha’s lawyer, said that he contested the lower court’s decision on three grounds: the Cambodia National Rescue Party leader still enjoyed parliamentary immunity; the charge was not an in flagrante delicto, or red-handed, crime; and Sokha had valid reasons to skip the summonses.
“They said the failure to show up [at court] was done without reason,” he said. “We gave the reason that on that day, he [Kem Sokha] had a mission to meet supporters in Kampong Cham.”
Socheat said presiding judge Seng Sivutha rejected all his arguments and denied the appeal, adding that he would now proceed to file a motion with the Supreme Court.
Party lawmaker Son Chhay said there was little hope for getting Sokha’s sentence overturned; however, the court’s seeming enthusiasm to end the appeals process was unusual.
“Normally it takes much longer. The lawyer was saying that it has gone faster than other normal cases,” he said.