Defence lawyers’ suspicions were confirmed on Thursday, when a Phnom Penh Municipal Court judge extended the pre-trial detention of the so-called “Adhoc 5” by an additional six months, citing the need for more investigation into their case, which has already dragged on for a year.
Investigating Judge Theam Chanpiseth met with the accused and their lawyers at a closed hearing, informing them that because he needed to question more witnesses and investigate the case further, the five would have to remain in prison. In the last six months, however, only one witness has been questioned.
On Wednesday, a court clerk had said in separate interviews with media outlets that a judge had already decided to extend the group’s detention, only to backtrack hours later. Defence lawyers, however, took the apparent slip-up as evidence their clients’ continued detention was a foregone conclusion.
Adhoc staffers Lim Mony, Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan and Nay Vanda stand accused of bribing opposition leader Kem Sokha’s purported mistress for her silence regarding the alleged scandal, whereas former Adhoc staffer and election official Ny Chakrya is named as an accomplice to the crime.
The case is widely believed to be politically motivated, and has taken place against a backdrop of what observers have characterised as a crackdown on the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party.
Friday marks one year since the five were taken into custody, and after yesterday’s decision, the five could face up to six more months in prison before a judge has to decide to drop the charges or proceed to trial.
“The reason is the same. That is the investigation is still going on. And some witness have not been completed in investigation,” said Adhoc lawyer Lor Chunthy. “We think that the extension is not reasonable, because in the last six months, there has been little investigation.”