The day after his arrest in Malaysia for visa violation, former Phnom Penh municipal police chief Heng Pov filed an application of habeas corpus (wrongful detention) on October 5 at the High Court in Kuala Lumpur, according to today's edition of the New Straits Times (NST) newspaper.
He is also seeking an order to prevent the Malaysian government from deporting him to Cambodia, where his lawyer says he is in danger of torture, injustice and death.
The manhunt for Pov, formerly an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sun, ended on October 4 when he was found hiding at an undisclosed location in Malaysia's Klang Valley, the Inspector-General of Malaysian Police, Tan Sri Musa Hassan, told the Kuala Lumpur press.
In his application, Pov named as respondents high-ranking Malaysian officials, including the Inspector-General of Police, the Director-General of the Immigration Department, and the Internal Security Minister.
Pov's attorney, Nik Mohd Ikhwan Nik Mahamud, said the court could not hear the application on October 5 or grant a temporary order preventing Pov from being deported.
"We heard rumors that he will be deported today [October 5] although I can't confirm it. That is why we made the application to stop the deportation," he was quoted as saying in the NST.
According to the NST, Judge Datuk Abdul Kadir Musa.would hear the application today, October 6.
"We stressed the point that he is seeking asylum in this country and that there is a real risk that he may be tortured and killed if he is deported," Nik Mohd Ikhwan said.
"We have also asked the ministry to use its discretion to extend his stay until another country agrees to accept his diplomatic asylum application."
Pov's wife, Ngin Photheavy, said in a supporting affidavit that Pov came to Malaysia on September 1 to seek asylum from persecution by the Cambodian government. She said that while in Malaysia Pov was negotiating with several countries to attain permanent asylum.
Photheavy, who is taking refuge at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office in Kuala Lumpur, said she came to Malaysia with her son after Pov arrived in the country but she had no contact or knowledge of his whereabouts.
According to government sources contacted by the Post on October 5, Cambodian authorities sent Mol Roeup, chief of the Department of Military Intelligence and Investigation, and Keo Vanthan, deputy chief of the Interpol office in Cambodia, to travel to Kuala Lumpur to retrieve Pov.
"We need Heng Pov to be brought back; Malaysia authorities have requested that we not comment to the press," said Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior on October 5. "The media needs information, but we need Heng Pov more."
Pov's immediate future remains unclear. He may be extradited to Cambodia to face murder charges, be granted asylum in a third country, or be held in Malaysia to face immigration charges. William Sink, deputy chief of mission at the Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh, told the Post he knew of no further developments in the case.
Senior CPP officials on October 5 dismissed Pov as any threat to the ruling party, and denied that his close ties to high-ranking government officials could result in any loss of power, popularity or strength at the polls. His scathing August 7 statement implicating leading government officials such as National Police Commisioner Hok Lundy and Prime Minister Hun Sen in criminal activity and murders, has been widely discredited by the CPP as a means to acquire political asylum.
"The case of Heng Pov will not bring down the CPP; Heng Pov is a small piece of cake within the CPP," said Nguon Nhel, CPP standing committee member and first vice president of the National Assembly.
"His crimes will not create enough influence to bring the CPP down in coming elections."
But opposition leader Sam Rainsy called Pov's arrest "problematic" and said he would now be unable to speak freely and may be subjected to forced confession.
"Now the government has corrected its mistake of letting Pov out of the counrty," Rainsy said on October 5. "The authorities can now wipe out Heng Pov's allegations and fabricate new ones. It will be more difficult to investigate crimes of the past."