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Capital court drops charges against Tola

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Moeun Tola speaks to reporters outside the Phnom penh Municipal Court after being questioned last November. Heng Chivoan

Capital court drops charges against Tola

The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday said it had dropped the breach of trust charges against labour rights activist Moeun Tola.

The charges related to a complaint filed by Cambodian Youth Party president Pich Sros over the mishandling of the funeral budget for slain political analyst Kem Ley in 2016, despite the fact that nobody in Ley’s family had filed a complaint.

Also charged were But Buntenh, founder of the Independent Monk Network, and independent media advocate Pa Nguon Teang, who have both fled abroad and still face court action.

The charges carry a punishment of one to three years in prison, and a fine of two million to six million riel (about $500 to $1,500).

“It has been decided that the charges against Moeun Tola, 43, over trust breach conducted in Phnom Penh in 2016, based on articles 391 and 392 of the Criminal Code, should be dropped as there is not enough evidence [against the accused],” the court said.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court spokesman Ey Rin said the municipal court decided to drop the charges against Moeun Tola, who was a former member of Ley’s funeral committee, on Tuesday.

“Dropping the charges is the provision of justice for me as I had argued since the beginning that the allegation is not true because I have not done as accused,” said Moeun Tola, who is executive director of the NGO the Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (Central).

He said the court should focus its efforts to further investigate the murder of Ley rather than people honestly helping to arrange his funeral.

Sros’ complaint against the three activists came after Buntenh pointed out that Sros himself had spent $2,300 on costs for a fundraiser that earned a mere $750 for a memorial stupa for Ley.

The second anniversary of Ley’s shooting was commemorated on Tuesday.

Sros, whose party is campaigning in the upcoming national elections, said he agreed to accept the court’s decision but felt he had the right to file the complaint as he had his suspicions.

“If the court does not find any wrongdoing and finds [Tola] innocent, I have no power to challenge [so] we accept the result accordingly,” he said.

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