The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has set January 15 as the trial date for Kem Sokha, the former president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) who is under court-supervised bail on a treason charge.
In a press release issued on Monday, the municipal court said Sokha will stand trial on the conspiracy charge under Article 443 of the Criminal Code.
The decision came after the Court of Appeal ruled that he remain under court-supervised bail on a charge of “conspiracy with a foreign power”.
The Appeal Court on Monday held a two-hour closed-door hearing to decide whether to put Sokha on trial.
Presided over by Judge Khun Leang Meng, the hearing was attended by Sokha’s defence team of Chan Chen, Meng Sopheary, Phen Heng and Phan Chansak, as well as government lawyer Ky Tech.
The Appeal Court rejected an appeal filed by Sokha’s defence lawyers against the court’s decision that he be sent to trial. It said Articles 249, 267 and 404 of the Criminal Code did not allow for an appeal against the final indictment to send the accused to trial.
With regard to its decision to continue to place [Sokha] under court supervision, the Appeal Court said Sokha committed a crime that seriously affected national security.
The Appeal Court’s hearing came after defence lawyers filed a complaint in writing against the final indictment and Sokha’s continued placement under court supervision.
Phen Heng, one of Sokha’s four defence lawyers, told The Post on Monday that his team had no choice but to follow court procedure.
“If the court continues the proceedings, we still have to follow. For lawyers, we still take note and see that the charge is not backed by enough evidence, so we hope that the judge will drop the charge.
“The authorities used only the video clip as a basis which led to an investigation, but they did not have concrete evidence to support the video clip. All the witnesses that the judges called in to testify did not provide answers that could place a legal burden on Sokha,” he said.
Chan Chen, another of Sokha’s defence lawyers, told reporters after the hearing that the Appeal Court’s decision was unjust.
“We strongly regret that the Appeal Court did not provide justice for my client as per our request.”
He said the team will continue in this legal battle, though he expressed high hopes for talks between politicians to find a solution to the case for the sake of national reconciliation and interests.