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Sokha trial on foreign conspiracy charges resuming January 19

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Kem Sokha leaves the Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a hearing in January last year. Heng Chivoan

Sokha trial on foreign conspiracy charges resuming January 19

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court will resume hearings in the trial of Kem Sokha – former president of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – on January 19 after having postponed them for an extended period of time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Municipal court deputy prosecutor Plang Sophal on December 13 issued a summons ordering Sokha to attend a hearing scheduled for January 19, 2022.

According to the summons, Sokha stands charged with conspiring with a foreign power against Cambodia from 1993 to 2017, a criminal offence punishable with a prison term of between 15 and 30 years under Article 443 of the Criminal Code.

“The accused [Sokha] absolutely must appear before the court in a timely manner,” the summons states.

Chan Chen, a lawyer for Sokha, could not be reached for comment on December 14. But in a recent Facebook post, he said the municipal court will start rehearing the case on January 19 at 8:30am. “We, his lawyers, stand ready to defend [Sokha] in the upcoming trial.”

Sokha was released on bail in September of 2018 but placed under judicial supervision. Hearings related to his trial on the conspiracy charges were put on pause in July last year due to the pandemic.

Prior to the issuance of the summons, Sokha met with Czech ambassador to Cambodia Martin Vavra on December 10, which was International Human Rights Day.

“We discussed current and future work. We also recalled some of the memories I have of studying in Czechoslovakia in the early 1980s,” Sokha said in a Facebook post about the meeting.

He said that a week before meeting Vavra, he had also met with ambassadors from three countries, including US ambassador Patrick Murphy. He said the ambassadors expressed their appreciation for his peaceful struggle, patience and dedication to the cause of human rights.

Cambodian Institute for Democracy president Pa Chanroeun told The Post on December 14 that Sokha and other former CNRP members who have been charged with similar crimes are all political prisoners and that while their cases may have been delayed by the pandemic, they would not be put off forever.

He said the delay may have partly been due to uncertainty as to how to go forward due to pressure from the international community – especially the EU and US – who agree that Sokha’s prosecution is politically motivated and have called for the release of Sokha and other former CNRP members.

“We have seen a lot of international pressure and sanctions because of this. But the news about Sokha’s trial proceeding actually could be a positive development because it might lead to a political solution or compromise as soon as next month,” Chanroeun said.

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