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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Rights group slams SL case

Protesters hurl stones and bricks at a brigade of riot police during a deadly clash in front of Stung Meanchey pagoda in Phnom Penh in November
Protesters hurl stones and bricks at a brigade of riot police during a deadly clash in front of Stung Meanchey pagoda in Phnom Penh in November. Pha Lina

Rights group slams SL case

A trial for two teens charged with intentional violence from a Stung Meanchey riot in November was unfair to the defendants, a statement released yesterday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) says.

Calling the trial “deeply flawed”, HRW said the judge in the case showed open hostility towards defendants Vanny Vannan, who is 18 or 19, and Meas Nun, 14 or 15, and did not allow evidence that could prove innocence, the statement says. The trial wrapped up last Tuesday. A verdict is expected on May 30.

“[The judge] refused to allow a defense lawyer to introduce potentially exculpatory video evidence at the final hearing, declaring that to do so could threaten ‘public order in the courtroom’,” it says.

Police arrested both defendants at the scene of the November 12 march of striking SL Garment Processing workers, which devolved into a riot as demonstrators threw rocks at authorities and trapped police inside a pagoda building. Police opened fire, injuring at least nine and killing Eng Sokhom, a 49-year-old food vendor.

Each defendant was charged with aggravated intentional violence, damage and insult of civil servants. If convicted, they face up to 11 years in prison.

Police and fire department witnesses say they saw Vannan on the perimeter of the Stung Meanchey Pagoda, throwing rocks, the report reads. But the inadmissible video shows events occurring differently to the narrative authorities who testified in court presented – which included a claim that demonstrators attacked police in a highly organised fashion.

“The video evidence contradicts claims that [Vannan] was involved in the alleged criminal acts,” the statement says. “The first security force allegation against him is contradicted by video evidence taken at the precise place and at the precise moment of the purported flank attack, which simply did not happen.”

Naly Pilorge, president of rights group Licadho, yesterday agreed with HRW’s conclusion that the trial was all but above board.

“Both men are scapegoats,” Pilorge said in a text message yesterday, adding that there was evidence that police arrested the wrong men.

Nun, the other defendant, suffers from mental illness and was picking up scrap metal when arrested, Pilorge said.

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