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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sirivudh determined to stay and fight

Sirivudh determined to stay and fight

P RINCE Norodom Sirivudh, vowing not to go into exile and said to be in a "combative

mood", has begun to prepare his defence with the help of an accomplished legal

team.

Cambodian Bar Association president Say Bory, former Appeals Court president Heng

Chy and French lawyer Michel Pitron are representing Sirivudh.

Currently detained at the Ministry of Interior, and facing possible life imprisonment

if convicted, Sirivudh faces three charges which include seeking to destroy the government.

"He is up early every morning, he has a suit and tie, a desk and he is reading

about his case. He is in a combative mood," said Pitron, of France's largest

law firm Gide Loyrette Nouel, Nov 28.

"He is ready to give explanations and he considers he has absolutely no problem

in relation to these charges."

Sirivudh's wife, Princess Christine Alfsen Norodom, said her husband had continued

to receive "friendly warnings" from government officials to leave Cambodia

or he might be killed. But he was adamant he would stay.

"My husband has made it very clear that he will live and die in this country."

She said Sirivudh maintained that the case against him - including a key piece of

evidence, an alleged tape recording of him threatening to kill Second Prime Minister

Hun Sen - was "fabricated."

Confusion surrounds the circumstances of the tape's recording, and observers speculate

it may be inadmissible in court.

Meanwhile, one of two witnesses expected to testify that Sirivudh spoke of killing

Hun Sen - journalist So Naro - seemed less than adamant that the Prince was serious

in his threat.

"If he says he talked to me, but [only] joked, no problem. I don't want to cause

trouble," said Naro, the secretary-general of the Khmer Journalists Association

(KJA), Nov 28.

An alleged conversation between Naro, fellow KJA official Cheam Phary and Sirivudh

- along with the separate tape recording of the Prince talking to an unnamed man

- are said to form the basis of the prosecution case.

The government's action against Sirivudh began on the night of Nov 17, when at least

two tanks and four armored personnel carriers took up positions around Hun Sen's

residence near the Independence Monument. Other troops blocked off either side of

St 240 near Sirivudh's house.

Funcinpec Minister of Interior You Hockry visited Sirivudh and, according to the

Prince, advised him to leave the country for his own safety. Sirivudh refused.

The government announced the next day that Sirivudh was under house arrest "pending

legal processes by the National Assembly and by the concerned authorities."

On Nov 21, a closed session of 105 MPs in the National Assembly voted unanimously

to withdraw Sirivudh's parliamentary immunity.

Sirivudh was taken under heavy security to T3 prison - in a move which First Prime

Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh admitted was not supposed to happen - before being

moved to the Ministry of Interior's compound after the intervention of the King.

Sirivudh has been charged under Article 4 of the government's law which outlaws the

Khmer Rouge. The article provides for a 20-30 year prison sentence, or life imprisonment,

for Khmer Rouge "or anyone" who seeks to destroy the Royal Government.

He also faces a charge of terrorism under a State of Cambodia law on terrorism, and

of criminal conspiracy to create unlawful armed groups under UNTAC law. The Phnom

Penh Municipal Court has a maximum of 6 months to investigate the case and decide

whether to prosecute on those or other charges.

Information Minister Ieng Mouly said that, from what he knew, the government had

two witnesses and a tape-recording as evidence.

The witnesses, So Naro and Cheam Phary, are believed to have visited Sirivudh on

Oct 26. So Nary later published an article in Angkor Thmei newspaper allegedly quoting

Sirivudh talking about murder plots against Hun Sen.

The tape-recording was made on Nov 6 - after the Naro/Phary meeting with Sirivudh

but before Naro's article was published on Nov 11 - according to Ranariddh.

It is allegedly of a radio or telephone conversation between Sirivudh and a publicly

unidentified person.

According to diplomats and Funcinpec MPs, for whom Ranariddh has played the tape,

it features one side of the conversation only.

It records a man, allegedly Sirivudh, speaking to a person he refers to as "Your

Excellency".

The tape, as played by Ranariddh, is about one and a half minutes long. According

to one diplomat's account of it, the voice at one point says: "As I told you,

Your Excellency, if he continues with these problems, I will shoot him.

"I warn you, please tell Mr Hun Sen clearly, I am not afraid of him. If he wants

violence, he will sure get it. I always keep my word."

Diplomats and Funcinpec MPs agree the man speaking seems extremely agitated and excited,

and the tape is distorted.

Government officials said they did not know who the man was talking to, and investigations

were continuing to find out.

But one person who heard the tape said: "It seemed to me that it has been changed.

I believe that they deleted the other side."

Ieng Mouly said investigations into the circumstances of how the tape was recorded

were continuing. Asked if it came from a listening device by a government department,

he said: "I can't answer that."

The head of one Cambodian human rights NGO, who would not be named, noted that the

privacy of telephone conversations were protected by the Constitution.

"I'm not sure whether that tape was made privately by an interlocutor of Sirivudh's,

allegedly, or by a phone tapping. If it was a tapping, who authorised it, is it or

was it a general government policy to tap phones and on what grounds was the tapping

authorized?

"If it was a recording of a private conversation, it is a private matter,"

he said.

Say Bory, one of Sirivudh's Khmer lawyers who was permitted to see the Prince Nov

28, said his client denied making threats about Hun Sen "to anyone".

Sirivudh has publicly denied meeting So Naro and Cheam Phary. Bory said Sirivudh

"seemed to remember one of these names", but did not remember meeting the

pair.

Michel Pitron, who expected a bail application to be filed on Sirivudh's behalf soon,

said he had not yet seen a copy of the prosecutor's file on the case.

But, after having met with Municipal Court chief judge Oum Sarith on Oct 28 and discussed

some of the evidence, he said: "As a lawyer, I have confidence in the outcome

of the trial."

The international human rights group Amnesty International, meanwhile issued a statement

proclaiming that Sirivudh was a "political prisoner" and urging that he

be given a fair, independent trial.

Christine Alfsen Norodom said she feared the court verdict, and the sentence, had

already been decided.

"To think that he alone has committed an act of terrorism and tried to overthrow

the government, all in a week or two. He's been busy.

"The charges are now all 100 per cent political charges...the trial is 100 per

cent political and if he's sentenced to jail, he will be a political prisoner."

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