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Phnom Penh court concludes terror case

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DP Paudel, a Nepali national, is lead to Phnom Penh Municipal Court today.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court today completed its hearings against three foreign suspects facing terrorism charges for allegedly sending threatening letters to the American, Australian and British embassies.

During the hearing, Presiding Judge Sun Visal said Cambodian police investigations showed the suspects had links to the al-Qaeda terrorist organisation and the Taliban.

“We think that this is one of the most serious crimes and complicated cases to be considered by the court,” said Sun Visal.

“We will officially announce their verdicts on the morning of February 16.”

The suspects – Rafiqul Eslami, a 42-year-old Bangladeshi national, Miah Muhammed Huymayan Kabir, a 62-year-old Bangladesh citizen, and DP Paudel, a 44-year-old from Nepal – were charged last June under the Kingdom’s anti-terrorism law.

They are accused of signing a letter threatening to attack the embassies and identifying the senders as members of al-Qaeda.

In multiple court hearings, the accused have denied sending any letters to embassies in Phnom Penh and have also denied involvement in any terrorist groups.

During today’s hearing, DP Paudel made a final plea for his release.

“I have not committed this crime against these embassies,” he said.

“Therefore, I would like to ask the court to drop charges against me and release me to go back to my country.”

Eslami, a former restaurant owner in the capital’s Chamkarmon district, has previously testified that he had been framed by people who wanted to extort money from him following the sale of his restaurant.

“I was friendly to all customers and people here ... and I didn’t write any letters that attacked the embassies like in the allegations,” Eslami said during his court testimony in January.

Muong Sokun, a defence lawyer representing Eslami, said: “If you really wrote a letter threatening the three embassies, would you dare to include your name and signature so that police could arrest you?”

If convicted on the terrorism charges, the suspects could receive between five and 10 years in prison.

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