Court says it will consider defamation charges against Ho Vann, who is
currently overseas, whether the lawmaker is present or not.
Photo by: Robert Carmichael
Kong Sam Onn (left) at a press conference in April.
PHNOM Penh Municipal Court is set to begin trial proceedings later this month in a defamation case filed by 22 high-ranking army officials against opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Ho Vann.
According to a court citation issued Friday by Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun, a copy of which was obtained by the Post, Ho Vann has been summoned to appear at the court on July 17.
Ho Vann faces charges under Article 63 of the UNTAC penal code and Article 10 of the 1995 Press Law, according to the citation. Although he is currently overseas, Ho Vann will be tried whether he is present or not.
"In case the person concerned does not appear before Phnom Penh Municipal Court as scheduled, the court will take the name of Ho Vann to judge the defamation charges in absentia," the citation reads.
Ho Vann was sued for defamation by 22 senior RCAF officials after he made comments to a local newspaper allegedly denigrating the quality of the academic degrees they received from a Vietnamese military institute.
Despite claiming he was misquoted by the newspaper, the National Assembly voted to suspend Ho Vann's parliamentary immunity last week, allowing the charges to be brought against him.
Ho Vann's lawyer Kong Sam Onn said Wednesday he had received the citation from the court. But he said he would request a postponement if his client could not appear on the scheduled date.
"It is not a proper time for us. I will discuss with my client first to ask for postponing the hearing," he said, adding that the court should not consider the charges without his client present.
"If they judge my client in absentia, I will reject the judgement and file a countersuit, so they will be forced to try him again," Kong Sam Onn said.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said Wednesday that Ho Vann was preparing to respond to the court but could not say whether Ho Vann would return in time for the proceedings.
He said the trial process was set up to punish Ho Vann whether he was present or not.
"I dare to predict that the court will not find justice for Ho Vann. Whether he is present at the court or not is not important because they have already prepared [the verdict]. This is an attempt to intimidate and silence the opposition party's voice," he said.
Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun could not be reached for comment Wednesday.