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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Vannak Freed

Vannak Freed

AFTER more than one year in

prison, Srun Vong Vannak an Amnesty International

"prisoner of conscience" was released on Sept

30.

Sam Rainsy's former security chief stepped out of his

cell and into freedom smiling tentatively. His mother,

who had clung to his arm and wailed when he was

convicted, combed his hair fondly as Vannak changed from

prison blues to a white shirt and trousers.

"I'm happy thanks to the generous heart that the

King has for his Cambodian subjects," he said.

"I have done nothing wrong I will keep

smiling." He added that he would resume his

political activities.

Vannak's Sept 9, 1997 conviction a 13-year sentence for

masterminding the murder of Second Prime Minister Hun

Sen's brother-in-law was immediately denounced by human

rights groups as lacking evidence and politically

motivated.

Vannak had confessed to the crime on a police tape, but

recanted the confession as soon as he reached court,

claiming police threatened it out of him.

The only other evidence against him was the confessions

of his two convicted co-conspirators, who later recanted

their stories, also claiming duress. Amnesty

International declared all three "prisoners of

conscience" in May 1998.

Legal Aid of Cambodia lawyers said Justice Minister Chem

Sgnoun had finally authorized the release of their client

while he was still abroad in Vietnam.

When the day came at last to take her son home, Sok

Sokhon was calm and her sentiments were simple. "I

am very happy," she said.

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