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Verdict looms in house battle

The defence attorney for a man suspected of illegal possession of state property asked the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to drop the charges against his client on Friday and release him from Prey Sar prison, where he has been detained for more than three months.

Ly Layadeth, 49, was arrested in November after constructing his residence on a plot of land to which the the government claims ownership. After his arrest, authorities demolished the residence.

His attorney, Sim Souyong, said his client’s arrest and charges were unjustified because he had not broken any laws and had owned the land in question for nearly 20 years.

He claimed his client legally bought the 380-square-metre plot of land in 1992 from the previous owner, who had allegedly possessed the land since 1979.

“The activities of the Russei Keo district police were the worst for my client and violated the law. The arrest of my client and his charges are an injustice. My client is a victim and an innocent man.

Therefore, I would like the court to drop charges against him,” said the defence attorney in court.

Chan Vicheth, attorney for the Russei Keo district police, said Ly Layadeth was arrested and his home destroyed because it was built illegally on state-owned land.

“He constructed his residence on the state’s land. The authorities in Russei Keo district warned him to stop construction three times, but he did not stop,” he said.

He cited a 2001 government sub-decree, which states that Ly Layadeth’s ownership of the plot was withdrawn, officially making the land state property.

Ly Layadeth was officially charged with illegal possession of state property in mid-November.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court Judge Te Sam Ang said a verdict will be handed down on Wednesday.

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