Search

Search form

Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Verdict in murder reversed

Verdict in murder reversed

Chan Sophon (centre) leaves the Municipal Court after his verdict hearing
Chan Sophon (centre) leaves the Municipal Court after his verdict hearing yesterday. Hong Menea

Verdict in murder reversed

After more than nine months in prison, wrongly convicted murderer Chan Sophon was released by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday following his exoneration in the 2007 killing of Free Trade Union leader Hy Vuthy due to a lack of evidence.

Sophon had been sentenced in absentia to 18 years in prison after being convicted of aggravated intentional murder in March 2012. He was finally arrested last April, but following a new investigation and a retrial last month, the court found there was no hard evidence linking Sophon to the crime.

“Based on hearing, the court has found that Chan Sophon, 35, is not guilty, because there was no real proof or witnesses to show that he was involved or had killed the victim, Hy Vuthy, former president of the [branch of] the Free Trade Union … at the Suntex garment factory, in 2007 as accused,” presiding judge Kor Vandy said.

“Therefore, the court has decided to drop the charge against Chan Sophon, and orders his release,” he added.

Sophon was originally convicted along with Phal Vannak, 34, who is now serving his 18-year sentence in Prey Sar prison, but Vandy noted yesterday that Vannak would not receive a retrial, as his case had already been thoroughly investigated.

According to police, Hy Vuthy, 34, was shot dead in February 2007 in Dangkor district, about a kilometre from the Suntex factory, while riding his motorbike home after a night shift. The murder was reportedly committed by two men on a motorbike.

Sophon was initially fingered as a suspect after witnesses claimed they had seen him carrying a pistol and tailing Vuthy in the days leading up to the murder.

Chea Hong Ry, Sophon’s defence lawyer, applauded the court’s decision yesterday, as did Sophon, who said he was “very happy” with the verdict.

Vuthy was the third FTU union representative – after factory rep Ros Sovannareth and FTU head Chea Vichea – to be killed in as many years. The investigations into both those murders were also widely considered to be flawed, and in both instances, those convicted of the crimes were ultimately released.

According to current FTU leader Chea Mony – who is also Chea Vichea’s brother – yesterday’s release of Chan Sophon was just another instance in a pattern of Cambodian authorities targetting the wrong suspects while refusing to investigate those really responsible.

“This has shown that the Cambodian authorities and the court have no real will to investigate and seek the arrest of the real killers,” he said.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

  • Breaking: PM says prominent human rights NGO ‘must close’

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has instructed the Interior Ministry to investigate the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and potentially close it “because they follow foreigners”, appearing to link the rights group to the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party's purported “revolution”. The CNRP - the

  • Government approves plan to relocate Phnom Penh’s airport

    The government has signed off on a proposal to build a new airport to serve Phnom Penh and has earmarked land in Kandal province for the $1.5 billion project. A new international airport to replace the existing Phnom Penh International Airport will be constructed on partially

  • American convicted of raping boy, 10, in Siem Reap

    A 79-year-old American man was sentenced to one year in prison for raping a 10-year-old boy by Siem Reap Provincial Court on Wednesday. John Paul Zollbrecht, of Washington state, was sentenced to one year in prison while a Cambodian man who helped facilitate the abuse, 23

  • PM derides talk of government affairs, hinting phone records could reveal all

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on Sunday night told Cambodia’s starlets to either name their high-profile government lovers or keep quiet, telling a room full of journalists he did not want to be tarred with the same brush. Addressing more than 3,400 people at the second