A LAWYER for opposition leader Sam Rainsy said yesterday that he would boycott an appeal hearing scheduled for next week if two villagers involved in the case are not able to attend.
Sam Rainsy and the villagers, from Svay Rieng province’s Chantrea district, are due to appear in the Appeal Court on Monday, where they will seek to overturn convictions handed down by Svay Rieng provincial court in January.
The Sam Rainsy Party president, who is in self-imposed exile overseas, was sentenced to two years in jail after an incident in October last year in which he helped villagers uproot wooden demarcation poles near the Vietnamese border.
Two of the villagers, Prum Chea, 41, and Meas Srey, 39, were sentenced to a year in jail each for their role in the incident.
Choung Choungy, Sam Rainsy’s lawyer, said that the two villagers were important witnesses in Sam Rainsy’s appeal and should also be allowed to attend their own appeals.
“I must go to defend Excellency Sam Rainsy, and the two jailed villagers have to be taken to attend the hearing as well. But if they are not brought to attend the hearing, I also will not attend,” he said.
“The two villagers are landowners who are very important witnesses, so if they do not attend, the hearing would not be fair.”
The appeal hearing was postponed from June 6, when Choung Choungy and Sam Sokong, a lawyer for Meas Srey and Prum Chea, left in protest because the two villagers were not present.
After the walkout, Judge Kun Leang Meng said the court would order the prison chief in Svay Rieng to send the two jailed villagers to be held in Phnom Penh for the next hearing.
Appeal Court prosecutor Nget Sarath said yesterday that he had written to Heng Hak, director of the General Department of Prisons, but said that the villagers’ arrival from Svay Rieng was up to the prison manager there. He said that the Appeal Court hearing would continue regardless of whether Choung Choungy was present.
Heng Hak declined to comment on when the two jailed villagers would be taken to Phnom Penh, but said that they would be present for Monday’s hearing.
“I can’t say when the two prisoners will be sent to Phnom Penh, but I guarantee that on the hearing day they will be present,” he said.