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Women acquitted after death deemed suicide

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Korean nationals Kim Jung Rye, 37, and Cho Mina, 32, leave the Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a hearing in February. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post

Two Korean women who have spent the past 14 months behind bars on suspicion of murdering a countryman in June last year were set free yesterday by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

Judge Duch Kimsorn said the court had found the death of Jeong Woochol, 44, to have been a suicide and had acquitted Cho Mina, 32, and Kim Jung Rye, 37, of murdering him in their condominium in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kork district.

Basing its decision largely on the testimony of Hyoung Joong Kim, a South Korean doctor who examined Jeong’s body last June, the court established he had hanged himself, Kimsorn said.

At a February hearing, Kim Jung Rye told the court she and Cho had come to stay at the condominium on June 1, 2011, and that at dawn on June 7, Jeong, her boyfriend, had stopped by and asked her to stop working as a hostess at the Venus Karaoke bar.

After Kim Jung Rye refused, the couple argued, and later the victim went into the bathroom and hanged himself with electrical wire, she said.

“I did not kill him,” Kim Jung Rye told the court.

Cho also denied the murder allegations, adding that after they found Jeong dead, she had telephoned their employer at Venus Karaoke for help and used scissors to cut Jeong down.

Cambodian doctors, however, had argued that the victim’s death was a murder rather than a suicide.

The victim’s lawyer and his family could not be contacted about whether they would appeal against the decision.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lieng Sarith at sarith.lieng@phnompenhpost.com

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