Chan Chen, a lawyer for Kem Sokha, who is currently on bail awaiting trial for treason, told local media on Sunday that his client’s legal team will request that the Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge close his case as no progress has been made.
Another lawyer for the president of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) also insisted that the charge be dropped “for social justice and legal protection”.
“We plan to request that the investigation is closed soon because the judge’s investigation has lasted for longer than a year. Witnesses have been questioned throughout the procedure,” Chen said.
Former CNRP president Sokha was arrested in September 2017 and charged with treason for allegedly colluding with a foreign power to overthrow the government.
After a year in detention in Tbong Khmum province’s Trapaing Phlong prison, Kem Sokha was released on bail to his home under court supervision on September 10 last year.
Kem Sokha has been on bail for more than 18 months as the Phnom Penh Municipal Court investigating judge carries out his investigation.
However, Chen said the procedure has been drawn-out. He said he would discuss with his co-lawyers about when to submit the request, saying it would happen soon.
Pheng Heng, another Sokha lawyer, said the legal team would request that the charge be dropped due to a lack of evidence.
“We have studied the case and there is no evidence that could have our client charged with an offence. We will ask that the charge be dropped for social justice and legal protection,” he said.
Heng added that Sokha’s health is being affected by a painful trapped nerve.
With the failure to discover any new evidence with which to charge him and considering his poor health, Chen said he wanted the investigation closed.
He said Sokha’s lawyers had previously requested the court speed up legal procedures but to no avail.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court have rejected requests to have the charge against Sokha dropped on four previous occasions.
Justice Ministry’s spokesman Chin Malin told The Post that it was the right of lawyers to submit such requests, but in accordance with legal procedure, the decision lay with the investigating judge.
“If the investigating judge has the grounds to close his investigation, he can decide to do so. If he finds that he needs further time, he can proceed further. Only the investigating judge can know where the case is or if he needs further time,” he said.
Independent legal expert Sok Sam Oeun expressed support for the request to close the Kem Sokha probe.
“There must be clear evidence so as not to keep a suspect charged indefinitely. If an investigation is not proper, I support a lawyer making such a request,” he said.