As lawyers await the much-anticipated verdict in the treason trial of former opposition leader Kem Sokha, a spokesman for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) urged calm and called on the public to refrain from speculating about the ruling, due on March 3.
The investigation and trial procedures of Sokha’s charges of “conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow the government” have been ongoing since his arrest in early September 2017.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court heard the final concluding arguments from the prosecution and lawyers of both sides late into the night last week, when they summarised their strongest arguments.
Deputy prosecutor Phlang Sophal said Sokha, former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), had committed an act of treason resulting in many injuries and the loss of many lives, as well as extensive damage to public and private property. Sokha had threatened the security and public order, he added.
“Therefore, the court requests that the trial chamber issue an order to detain the accused, in accordance with the provisions of Article 353 of the Code of Criminal Procedure,” he concluded, demanding that Sokha be taken into custody.
Government lawyer Ky Tech told The Post that his team had submitted an 86-page final statement to the trial chamber, detailing the charges against Sokha.
The government is acting as a civil party, claiming all damages caused by “illegal” demonstrations of Sokha’s supporters, Tech said, adding that his team will file further complaints for civil claims.
“As is clear from the provisions of articles 21-22-23 and 26 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, a civil party can file a claim in any case, even after a criminal case has been decided,” he said.
Meng Sopheary, a member of Sokha’s defence team, said that from now until March 3, her team will not be holding further meetings and will simply await the ruling.
“Now that we have presented our closing arguments, we have fulfilled our duty as lawyers. All we can do is wait to hear the announcement,” she said.
She said her team had pleaded that the court drop the charges against Sokha and had offered a number of explanations for why her client had not acted against the law as charged.
“We have protested that the allegations are patently untrue, while also offering arguments that clearly showed my client did not conspire with foreigners [to plotting],” she added.
Although the long-awaited verdict is due on March 3, that is unlikely to be the end of the case, as either side may file an appeal to a higher court, explained Tech.
As some political commentators and members of the public offered predictions on Sokha’s next step in politics, CPP spokesman Sok Eysan suggested that they await the verdict instead of making any speculations on Cambodia’s independent judiciary before it had even been delivered.