The treason trial of Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha began at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday with the presentation of a two-minute video clip.
The footage, which was the basis of the charge against him, was dismissed by Sokha as having been edited.
Government lawyer Ky Tech said after the hearing that the court had presented the charge against Sokha and informed him of his rights.
He said there were a total of 27 witnesses in the case, but only 12 had appeared in court on Wednesday, with the other 15 absent without clear reasons.
Tech said Sokha’s lawyers had submitted a USB stick containing the original video, lasting more than one hour, which they requested the court to play.
“Kem Sokha told the hearing that the voice and picture in the clip were of him, but he produced another video and requested the trial chamber to accept it. He said the video played in court had been edited,” Tech said.
He said the court accepted Sokha’s video footage and will play it at a future date.
Tech said Sokha’s case of conspiracy with a foreign power involved nine countries, certain NGOs and foreign individuals. Without clarifying their roles, he named the countries as Indonesia, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Australia, the US, Canada, the EU, Taiwan and India.
Tech requested the court to record these countries in the judgement using Khmer letters as a code to protect diplomatic relations, but keep the names in full in the court report as this was an internal document.
“We, the lawyers, have two bags of evidence. We will present this evidence at the hearing to ensure that the court’s verdict is just.
“We lawyers and the court prosecutor have a pile of evidence to submit to the trial chamber for them to decide on Sokha’s guilt and to what extent he is legally responsible,” Tech said.
Asked if the case was political, Tech replied that the court was trying Sokha with conspiracy with a foreign power according to Article 443 of the Criminal Code.
He said the trial would continue for as long as both sides needed to clarify the facts.
Meng Sopheary, a member of Sokha’s four-lawyer legal team, said her client had denied the charge brought against him by the prosecutor. She said Sokha had rejected the two-minute video clip played in court, saying it was misleading after being cut and edited.
“With the video clip edited and misleading, Kem Sokha requests to bring forward more evidence – that is, the whole of the original video from 2013, which lasts more than an hour,” Sopheary said.
In the afternoon, the court questioned Sokha on his activities from 1993 to 2007, before asking him about the establishment of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said Cham Chen, another of Sokha’s lawyers.
“Sokha asked the court why he had been accused using an article in the Criminal Code officially approved in 2000 for an accusation dating back to 1993,” Chen said.
Sokha also took to Facebook to deny the charge.
“I did NOT bring in any foreign state or foreign agents to conduct hostilities or an invasion against the Kingdom of Cambodia.
“I did NOT commit anything of which I am accused – especially, I haven’t committed any acts detrimental to national interests,” Sokha said.
He said all of his activities had focused on human rights and democracy, and were carried out in a peaceful and non-violent manner in accordance with the Cambodian Constitution.
“[I will] continue to demand that the court permanently drop the charge against me so that I can fully exercise my political freedoms in serving and defending the interests of the country and the people,” Sokha said.
The trial will resume on Thursday. It is scheduled to take place every Wednesday and Thursday.