Former anti-drug czar Moek Dara (L) and former anti-drug officer Chea Leng exit the Appeal Court in October 2011. Photograph: Hong Menea/Phnom Penh Post
A month after hearings wrapped up, the Court of Appeal yesterday delayed the verdict in the case of disgraced former anti-drug czar Moek Dara, saying the highly complex case required further deliberation.
In January 2012, Dara and anti-drug officer Chea Leng were sentenced to life in prison by the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on dozens of counts of bribery and drug trafficking.
Morn Doeun, the third defendant and currently at large, was sentenced in absentia to 25 years. All three stand convicted of brokering a complex crime ring that netted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes by setting drug traffickers free.
At the court yesterday, Judge Chay Chandaravann said the verdict would be delayed until January 31.
“The reason the Court of Appeal has delayed their verdicts announcement is because their hearings were not typed completely yet, and the court needs more time to check and verify their answers,” he told the Post.
The largest trial to take place in Cambodian courts in modern history, the case involved hundreds of witness testimonies and a 41-page indictment.
Ngeth Sarath, deputy prosecutor of the Court of Appeal, told the Post yesterday documents compiled during the appeal hearing alone weighed more than 20 kilograms.
“The reason the verdict announcement was delayed in the Moek Dara-Chea Leng case is because... there were a lot of documents for the court to work on and the court could not do it in a short time.”
Complicating matters, five key documents lost at the provincial court surfaced shortly after the appeal hearing and had to be verified, Dara’s defence attorney, Ray Bunthoeun, said.
“According to the five documents, a drug criminal who was also a witness for Moek Dara said that she had never known or met Moek Dara and said she had never bought drugs from Moek Dara as accused,” he said, adding that the lost documents were only recently submitted for consideration.
To contact the reporter on this story: Buth Reaksmey Kongkea at firstname.lastname@example.org