The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on June 22 held the 45th hearing in the trial of Kem Sokha, former leader of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). The presiding judges allowed prosecutors to ask Sokha questions about “scuffles” between demonstrators and police that occurred during demonstrations in the capital’s Meanchey district, where tyres were burned and cars overturned.

Following the hearing, Sokha’s defence lawyer Pheng Heng said his client did not answer the questions because the fracas happened between the demonstrators and police, and was not the CNRP’s responsibility. The former main opposition party only organised the demonstrations at the Freedom Park, he said.

“The prosecutor also asked him whether the three-day demonstration at Freedom Park was legal or not,” he said.

He added that the CNRP had never encouraged demonstrators to use violence, despite them being beaten. Sokha and his lawyers also asked the court to clearly define the word “scuffles”. He also asked the court not to ask him questions about protests by workers, teachers or the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), saying it would be a waste of time because he knew nothing about them.

“Sokha saw certain questions about the demonstrations as irrelevant and urged the court to focus on his to his treason charges. He felt the court was wasting time, despite repeatedly saying they would not do so,” he added.

Yi Soksan of rights group ADHOC who attended the trial, told reporters that he felt the hearing was politically motivated.

“The accused said he was charged with colluding with a foreigner [to topple the government], and he asked which foreigner exactly, but the court did not answer. Now the court is talking about demonstrations. Sokha explained that he only held the demonstration at Freedom Park, and that they should not ask him about other protests,” he said.

Municipal court deputy prosecutor Plang Sophal said the prosecutor had played two videos of scuffles and questioned Sokha.

He added that the defence team’s baseless allegations were not new. Acting in bad faith and trying to shift blame to the prosecutor for wasting time had become a habit, he said, adding that the prosecutor had fulfilled their role according to standard legal procedures.

The hearing will resume on June 29.