THE brother of murdered trade union leader Chea Vichea has been threatened with legal action for accusing the government of involvement in the killing, according to a report.
On Monday, the Appeal Court ordered the Chea Vichea case reopened for further investigation following requests from the defence lawyers of Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun, the two men convicted in the gunning down of the former head of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions in 2004.
Speaking at the court, Chea Mony, Chea Vichea's brother and president of the Free Trade Union of Workers of the Kingdom of Cambodia, said he remained convinced the government was behind the killing.
"I maintain my stance from the beginning and acknowledge that [Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun] were fake killers, and I urge the court to find the real killers" he said. "I am ready to take responsibility and dare to be imprisoned for my conclusion about my brother's murder case, which is that the government prepared a plan to kill my brother."
IF THE MINISTRY ... SUES CHEA MONY,THAT IS A SERIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, accused Chea Mony of publishing disinformation, warning that any allegations of government impropriety would be met with the full force of the law. "If Chea Mony accuses the government of being behind [the killing] without any evidence, we will file a complaint, and Chea Mony will have to face the law," the newspaper Deum Ampil quoted him as saying.
Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but Chea Mony said he was not intimidated by the ministry's threats and would welcome a jail sentence if it could be proved that he had broken the law. "I'm not worried at all", he told the Post. "It is the ministry's right to sue me if I break the law. That is its right, its freedom."
Human rights groups condemned the ministry's threat as "unjust", not least because the investigation into Chea Vichea's death is still ongoing.
"The government should fulfil its obligation to investigate the killing before it sues anyone," said Ou Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights.
Chan Soveth, a programme officer with the rights group Adhoc, attended Monday's hearing and said Tuesday that Chea Mony's allegations were based on the absence of any concrete evidence linking Born Samnang and Sok Sam Oeun to the murder, and did not warrant a lawsuit. "If the Ministry of Interior sues Chea Mony, that is a serious human rights violation," he said.
Meanwhile, the UN called for Born Samnang and Sok Sam Ouen to be acquitted. In a statement released to the press Tuesday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation welcomed the court's decision to reopen the case and said all charges against the two men should be dropped.
"It now seems beyond doubt that there is insufficient evidence to maintain the charges against Born Samnang and Sok Sam Ouen," the statement read. "The two men's earlier conviction for the murder had been heavily criticised for its reliance on a retracted confession obtained under duress, for the lack of concrete evidence against the men and for disregarding witness testimony indicating that the men could not have committed the crime. The charges against the men should now be dropped, allowing the police to resume the search for those really responsible for shooting Chea Vichea in January 2004."