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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prosecutor: I am innocent

Prosecutor: I am innocent

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Top Chan Sereyvuth (centre), a former provincial prosecutor in Pursat province, is helped as he leaves the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh yesterday.

The lawyer for form-er Pursat provincial prosecutor Top Chan Sereyvuth, convicted in May on corruption charges, told an Appeal Court hearing yesterday the wrong man was behind bars and asked for a forestry official to be investigated.

Kea Chhay told the court that forestry official Ri Lay had accepted US$300 from illegal logging suspects during a crackdown on June 24, 2010, but that Top Chan Sereyvuth had not been involved in ordering the extortion.

The former Pursat prosecutor is serving a 19-year sentence after being found guilty of corruption, extortion and illegal detention. He was arrested in November, 2010 along with his drivers, Chhit Vutthy and Ros Samnang, both of whom were found guilty of the same charges and sentenced to 16 and 15 years in jail respectively.

During his trial, it was alleged that Top Chan Sereyvuth ordered his employees to extort money from a man transporting wood through the province.

The plaintiff, Khol Soknha, said at the time that he had been illegally detained by Top Chan Sereyvuth’s staff and forced to pay US$3,000 for  his release.

The former prosecutor’s brother-in-law, Pich Kong You, was found guilty in absentia for his involvement in the crime and ordered to serve 18 years in prison. He remains at large.

In court yesterday, Kea Chhay claimed Ri Lay had worked with Pich Kong Yu exclusively to extort money from illegal logging suspects. “The [extorted] money also involves that forestry official, so [he is] also involved in the allegations,” Kea Chhay said.

The lawyer, who also asked that his client be released due to poor health, told the Post after the hearing that only Pich Kong Yu and Ri Lay had “collected money” from suspects.

Top Chan Sereyvuth said in court that he was with his wife in Phnom Penh on the date of the incident and had received no money.

Ri Lay testified yesterday that Pich Kong Yu was a “representative” of Top Chan Sereyvuth, and that he had detained two people for one night under his orders, with Pich Kong Yu later extorting $3,000 for their release.

Khol Soknha testified yesterday  he did not see Top Chan Sereyvuth during the crackdown and that Pich Kong Yu had ordered his arrest.

Presiding judge Pol Samoeun said a verdict would be issued on March 14.

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