At the close of a case that remained shrouded in controversy until the end, Koh Kong Provincial Court yesterday found former security guard Ran Boroth guilty of the unintentional killing of military police officer In Rattana, the man on whom authorities pinned the murder of anti-logging activist Chut Wutty.
The two-year sentence, of which 18 months was suspended, will allow Boroth to walk free in less than two weeks’ time.
While the verdict raised few eyebrows, it drew scorn from those who believe the trial was simply a smokescreen to conceal the real culprit and circumstances behind Wutty’s death.
Boroth was found guilty of accidentally shooting Rattana with the latter’s AK-47 during an attempt to disarm him moments after Rattana allegedly shot Wutty, who had been apprehended in his four-wheel drive vehicle while investigating a logging firm in the Cardamom Mountains.
Authorities concluded that Rattana had shot Wutty only after giving several bizarre and contradictory accounts of the incident.
But proceedings into the case were ultimately dropped on the grounds that both victim and suspect were already dead.
Koh Kong co-ordinator for rights group Adhoc, Neang Boratino, who attended yesterday’s hearing, said the sentence was largely suspended because the court believed the justifications provided in Boroth’s testimony.
“The presiding judge, Kham Sophary, judged on the basis of Ran Boroth’s testimony that he just tried to obstruct the further shooting of the two local journalists,” he said.
Those journalists, Canadian Olesia Plokhii and Cambodian Phorn Bopha, had accompanied Wutty on a trip to investigate the activities of the company Timbergreen, the same firm that employed Boroth.
Both have said they did not witness the shooting, because they fled after hearing shots fired.
Judge Kham Sophary could be reached for comment.
Wutty’s family have consistently said that the proceedings against Boroth lacked credibility and would do nothing to bring them justice.
Rights groups have questioned why a masked soldier photographed next to Wutty’s car just before he was shot, a man believed to be named Bou Chhorn, has never been called to testify.
In a statement issued yesterday, Licadho director Naly Pilorge slammed the court’s failure to call key witnesses during the trial or, crucially, present evidence establishing that Rattana was responsible for Wutty’s death in the first place.
“The investigation into Chut Wutty’s killing has been a mockery of justice from day one – from the farcical explanations for his death, to the presentation of vague, uncontested conclusions masquerading as a trial,” the statement reads.
Licadho claimed Boroth was unable to re-enact in court how he had been able to execute the difficult task of turning Rattana’s AK-47 180 degrees back on him before discharging two rounds several inches away from each other into the victim’s chest and stomach.
“The so-called trial was really more of a quick, unconvincing plea-bargain proceeding,” Pilorge said in the statement.
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