Two former Radio Free Asia reporters were provisionally charged by a Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor this morning with “espionage”. If convicted, the pair faces seven to 15 years in prison.
Oun Chhin and Yeang Socheameta were arrested on Tuesday, with police at the time saying they detained them for allegedly running an unlicensed karaoke production studio. The Ministry of Interior later confirmed they were being investigated for allegedly setting up a broadcast studio for RFA, which the men have denied. The US-funded radio broadcaster shuttered its in-country operations in September amid a government crackdown on independent media.
RFA has said that it no longer has any ties to the two journalists, and that they were not working on its behalf.
Court spokesman Ly Sophana said that after reviewing evidence prosecutor Seng Heang had "enough grounds" to charge Chhin and Socheameta under Article 445 of the Criminal Code for providing "a foreign state with information which undermines national defence".
He said the case will be forwarded today to the investigating judge, who will finalise the charges.
Keo Vanna, the lawyer representing the pair, questioned the validity of the charges today.
"This is an injustice for them because they have not committed any wrongdoing," he said. "They have not committed any crimes because there is no evidence to press charges against them."