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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sirivudh's legal team off, saying appeal up to him

Sirivudh's legal team off, saying appeal up to him

PRINCE Norodom Sirivudh says he has not yet decided whether to appeal his conviction

and ten-year jail sentence, but he'll likely have to find new lawyers if he wants

to.

The exiled Prince said this week that he had not discussed the issue with Say Bory,

who along with Heng Chy represented Sirivudh at his trial, but he believed that Bory

would advise against an appeal.

Bory, in a letter faxed to Sirivudh in France the day after the Feb 22 trial, wrote

that "the decision is yours" on a possible appeal.

"Our mission as attorneys is over as far as this process is concerned,"

said Bory's letter, written in French, according to an English translation provided

by Sirivudh.

"If you wish to continue this procedure, you are free to choose attorneys who

you trust."

Elsewhere in his letter, Bory said that Sirivudh had been convicted on the basis

of "suppositions" and an erroneous and extensive interpretation of the

law.

During the trial, Bory, the President of the Bar Association, and Chy, a former Appeals

Court president, argued for Sirivudh's acquittal in representations to the judge.

But, in a move which drew criticism from foreign lawyers, neither lawyer cross-examined

the witnesses against Sirivudh.

Sirivudh told the Post by telephone that he did not blame Bory and Chy. He noted

that there had been a heavy police presence at the court.

"But it's sad that my lawyers could do nothing...they could not even pronounce

one word [to the witnesses]."

Sirivudh said the result of the trial was no surprise to anyone, and it was the legal

system of Cambodia - not him - which had really been in the dock.

Sirivudh, who was convicted of conspiracy and weapons charges, has two months to

appeal against the decision. He said he was still debating his options.

Meanwhile, the only foreign government official's condemnation of Sirivudh's trial

- by Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans - led to a protest outside the Australian

Ambassador's residence in Phnom Penh on Feb 25.

About 100 students crowded outside the residence, dubbing graffiti - such as "Australia

supports terrorists" - on the walls, in the otherwise peaceful protest.

A day earlier, Evans had been quoted as saying that Sirivudh's sentence was "very

depressing because I think it does demonstrate that the Cambodian judiciary is less

than independent."

Evans said there did not seem to be sufficient evidence "to at all remotely

justify conviction and sentence of this order."

Sirivudh welcomed Evans' comments, and asked what other countries - particularly

the United States - had to say about his trial.

"I want to know what the United States, as a great country and a democratic

one...what is their statement on this?

"They are not obliged to react to me, but I would like to ask them anyway."

A US Embassy spokesman in Phnom Penh said no official US statement had been made

on the trial.

Sirivudh also expressed the hope of one day traveling to the US, to talk to Cambodians

there, and wondered aloud whether that country would give him a visa. The Embassy

spokesman said later that he could not speculate on potential visa applications.

Sirivudh said he would continue to speak out on critical Cambodian issues from abroad,

and was organizing committees of people in France who were concerned about Cambodia.

He also several times made the point that he would like to be interviewed on the

"famous and popular" Voice of America radio network broadcast to Cambodia.

Meanwhile, King Norodom Sihanouk issued a statement from Beijing this week to hit

out at continuing foreign press reports which criticized his part in Sirivudh's exile.

Complaining that the foreign, and particularly the French, press enjoyed making him

the "guilty" one, the King said most Cambodians agreed with his method

of preventing Sirivudh's imprisonment and death in Cambodia.

Some compatriots and foreign journalists were "sadists", the King wrote,

who took pleasure in hurting him. Nevertheless, he said, he would take no action

against the little "Draculas" who used pens and words to "suck Sihanouk's

blood."

"I wish them to take pleasure," the King ended his communiqué.

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