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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Unionist's killer gets appeal hearing

Unionist's killer gets appeal hearing

Thach Saveth, found guilty in 2005, likely to attend court today

The Court of Appeal is expected to hear today the case of Thach Saveth, who was convicted for the 2004 murder of key unionist Ros Sovannareth, in what rights groups say was a frame-up reminiscent of the slaying of labour leader Chea Vichea.

Ros Sovannareth, who was union president at the Trinunggal Komara garment factory, was gunned down by two assailants while driving his motorcycle on Kampuchea Krom Boulevard on May 7, 2004.

Thach Saveth was arrested on July 24, 2004, in connection with the killing and was sentenced to 15 years in prison after a trial in Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Thach Saveth's slaying closely followed the murder of Chea Vichea during a turbulent time for Cambodia's labour unions. A third labour leader, Hy Vuthy, was gunned down in 2007 amid ongoing attacks against union members.

The Court of Appeal held a hearing in 2008 at which it upheld the conviction of Thach Saveth, said Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho. But he said witnesses, victims and Thach Saveth himself had been barred from attending the hearing, which led to the push for a new appeal.

Sam Chamroeun, Thach Saveth's lawyer, said he had spoken with prison officials and was "80 percent" certain the suspect would be allowed to attend today's hearing.

Am Sam Ath told the Post Tuesday that Thach Saveth continues to maintain his innocence. In several interviews, he said, the suspect has never changed his story.

"He told me that he was arrested and interrogated in Tuol Kork district for drug use only," he said.

Am Sath Ath said these interviews had led him to conclude that Thach Saveth is not the real killer.

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