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New trial for Vichea suspects

New trial for Vichea suspects

The two men accused of killing trade union leader Chea Vichea last year will return

to the Phnom Penh municipal court in early August for a retrial in the controversial

case.

Presiding judge Kong Seth said he has scheduled the hearing for the first week of

August and will issue a letter next week to the suspect's lawyers to officially inform

them.

"I think there is no problem, the trial will proceed as usual," Seth said.

Despite both men having alibis, Bourn Samnang, 23, and Sok Samoeun, 36, stand accused

of the January 22, 2004, assassination of Vichea, an outspoken union activist and

Sam Rainsy Party supporter.

Charges against the men were dropped in March 2004 due to lack of evidence, but investigating

judge Hing Thirith was then transferred to Stung Treng and the case sent to the Appeal

Court.

A first municipal court hearing was scheduled in January 2005, but the suspects'

lawyers boycotted the trial, saying their appeal for bail had not yet been decided,

prompting Seth to postpone the case.

The Appeal Court rejected the bail request, and on July 8 the Supreme Court upheld

the decision.

The Supreme Court ruling was criticized by the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee

(CHRAC), a coalition of 18 NGOs.

"The strategy of the Supreme Court, which said criminal suspects could not be

released on bail, is not fair because no article of law supports that [position],"

stated CHRAC in a July 8 press release.

Samnang defense's lawyer, Chum Sovannaly, said he will attend the trial now that

bail applications have been exhausted.

"I'm already prepared to join the trial," Sovannaly said.

The men have been in detention for almost 18 months.

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