During a closed-door session at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, Muslim community leader Ahmad Yahya denied defaming fellow community leader Othsman Hassan.
Outside of the court, Hassan said he filed the suit because Yahya had told local media and a Muslim radio station that Hassan requested approval to build a road through land belonging to the mosque at Boeung Kak. The road has become a source of tension in the Muslim community, with some believing it will disturb the faithful during prayers.
Hassan, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Labour, maintained the plan was initiated by Phnom Penh City Governor Pa Socheatvong.
But Yahya, himself a secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that it was Hassan who drew the first design for the road and that he also had plans to build condominiums in the area.
“I really didn’t defame him,” Yahya said, adding that the lawsuit was a waste of time. Socheatvong didn’t return a request for comment yesterday, but City Hall administrative director Meas Chanyada confirmed Socheatvong was behind the road, which was part of the 2035 city master plan.
“It’s not Hassan who initiated the project,” Chanyada said.
Hassan did acknowledge, however, that he would like to see the area developed with high rise buildings to benefit the Muslim community.
“We should not let the land go unused,” he said. “We are planning on how to use the land properly.”
Hassan said that he would leave it up to the court to decide on the case.