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NGOs probe Jemaah Islamiyah case

Six leading human rights groups are concerned that five Muslim men charged with being

members of an international terrorist organization are not being treated fairly by

the Cambodian justice system.

The groups have started their own investigation into why the men have been held in

prison for nine months without trial and why the judge suddenly substituted the charge

at their last hearing, causing their lawyer to walk out in protest.

They intend to prepare a case asking the court to give the men a fresh hearing.

Muhammad Yalaudin Mading, 41 (Thai), Abdul Azi Jahki Chuiming, 35 (Thai) and Esam

Mohammed Khidr Ali, 40 (Egyptian), Sman Isma El, 23 (Cambodian), and Rousha Yasser,

33 (Egyptian ) are all suspected of being members of Jemaah Islamiyah.

The six NGOs met on March 10 to form an action committee to investigate whether the

suspects' rights are being respected, said ADHOC Program Officer Chan Soveth. The

other members are LICADHO, KKK, VIGILANCE, KHRACO and Khmer Cham Islam.

After a six-hour hearing on February 27 at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Judge

Ya Sokhan changed the charge from being laid under Article 2 of the law on anti-terror,

to Article 3 of the law on "terrorism punishment".

Judge Ya Sokhan read Article 3 at the end of the hearing: "Anyone who kills

or attempts to kill people by intending beforehand in the purpose of conducting terrorism

must be punished by life imprisonment regardless of any tolerance of any circumstances."

The lawyer for three of the defendants, Kao Soupha, walked out of the hearing, claiming

his clients had not been informed of the change of charge. "I don't think Cambodia

has the law on anti-terror and I don't know where the court takes it from,"

he said.

A day later, Soupha wrote an open letter asking for the help from the NGOs, and tipped

off the media.

Two members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Frank Pellegrino from New York

and Robert Cahill from Bangkok, also joined in the hearing on February 27.

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