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New judge appointed in case of slain journo

The Ratanakkiri Provincial Court has appointed a new investigating judge to dig deeper into several unexplored clues related to the murder of slain journalist Hang Serei Oudom, according to the victim’s widow.

Presiding Judge Y Sovann has tapped Ratanakkiri court president Sous La to continue the investigation by examining several specific points, said Im Chanthy, 21, who was married to Oudom when police found his bludgeoned body stuffed into the trunk of a parked car in O’Chum district on September 11.

The court is expected to summons a mechanic and neighbour who heard screaming near Oudom’s house on the night the journalist disappeared, and to question a group of people who were drinking with Oudom the same evening.

In addition, “the court also ordered to investigate a phone company about the communication before Oudom’s death,” she said.

“I’m very happy, because the previous investigation of the previous judge is not clear, so it requires more investigation. And the suspects are still being detained,” she said.

The court arrested and charged a former Ratanakkiri military police officer and his wife with premeditated murder in the wake of the killing, but the evidence presented against them in court has come under fire for being too weak. Their attorney has said that testing on a blanket once believed to contain blood of the victim came back negative.

Rights monitors familiar with the case have repeatedly urged investigators to cast a wider net, since one of Oudom’s last articles for his newspaper named the son of a provincial military police commander in an illegal logging scheme. The son was one of almost two-dozen officials and acquaintances questioned in the case, but he was never implicated in the crime.

Heng Sotheara, the lawyer for the two suspects, welcomed the judge’s decision and once again called for the court to drop charges against his clients.

“Because the previous investigation has not completely finished, this action is fact finding for both sides to get acceptable justice,” he said.



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