A Kampong Speu court sentenced a man to a two-year prison term for accidentally killing
his uncle, an activist with the opposition Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). Him Vuthea, 21,
was sentenced on April 28 in a ruling that was criticized by his lawyer, who said
his client's confession was forcibly extracted.
Vuthea's uncle, Tith Keo Monyroath, was shot dead while the two men were on a motorbike
in the province in November 2002. His lawyer, Hong Kim Suon from the Cambodian Defenders
Project, rejected the judge's decision, and said he would appeal the verdict.
"[Vuthea] told me that he was forced to confess while in detention," said
Suon. "I still believe the verdict was wrong."
Suon said Vuthea had recanted his confession during the April 25 trial. His client
said police forced him to confess to accidentally shooting his uncle with an AK-47
that one of the two men was carrying. They promised him a reduced sentence in exchange.
Vuthea told the court that he and his uncle, the SRP's deputy chief for Sambo commune,
were driving to a ceremony when he saw a flash of light and heard shooting nearby.
His uncle collapsed, but Vuthea managed to escape.
Judge Phong Samon based his verdict solely on Vuthea's confession. He said there
was no other evidence that indicated he was innocent, and so ruled Vuthea had accidentally
shot his uncle.
Human rights activist Khem Sokha said the killing may have been political, and faulted
the judge for refusing to reconsider Vuthea's testimony.