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Rights worker back in court

121212 03

Prominent human-rights worker Chan Soveth has been summonsed by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court a second time for questioning over charges of having “provided assistance to a perpetrator”.

According to a copy of the subpoena, dated November 30 and delivered to Soveth yesterday, the senior Adhoc investigator will appear in court on December 24. If found guilty of having violated Article 544 — providing assistance to the perpetrator of a crime — he could face three years in prison and a $1,500 fine.

In August, Soveth was summonsed over the same charges, but questioning was delayed because of a training trip that took him out of the country for more than a month.

Rights groups have been quick to question the motivation behind the charge, but Soveth said he had no intention of shirking questioning.

“I will go to the court on the date set. I’m not going to run away,” he said yesterday.

“I am afraid of being arrested, but I have to fulfil my duty as a citizen. I’m not scared of that.”

In a statement issued yesterday, Adhoc highlighted the lack of information from the court about the charge and defended Soveth’s behaviour.

“Before more details on the specific information Judge Chhe Virak is looking for are disclosed, Adhoc would like to stress that it has always conducted its activities in accordance with the law.”

Judge Virak could not be reached for comment yesterday and the court has remained tight-lipped on the scope of the accusation since the initial warrant was sent in August.

Adhoc has avoided public speculation on what the charge might be related to, but it was filed two days after Prime Minister Hun Sen gave a speech in which he accused an unnamed NGO worker of having aided a ringleader of the so-called Kratie secession movement.

Cambodian Center for Human Rights president Ou Virak said the summons fitted in with a trend of increasing intimidation against human-rights defenders.

“This is a cause for concern, because it’s part of a bigger crackdown on NGO defenders,” Virak said. “And, given the show trial and unjust conviction of [independent radio station owner] Mam Sonando, we are very concernedabout what will happen to him.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Cheang Sokha at sokha.cheang@phnompenhpost.com
With assistance from Abby Seiff

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