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Case against RFA reporters pushes ahead

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Former RFA reporters Yeang Sothearin (front, in blue shirt) and Oun Chhin (back, in white shirt) are escorted by officials after being detained for questioning in Phnom Penh in November. facebook

Case against RFA reporters pushes ahead

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected a complaint to nullify legal proceedings against two former RFA journalists, Uon Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, on espionage charges.

Chhin and Sothearin were released on bail on August 21 according to a Phnom Penh Municipal Court order. They were imprisoned for nine months and seven days.

After the verdict was announced by Presiding Judge Kong Srim in the absence of the complainants, Sothearin told The Post that the Supreme Court had upheld the lower court’s ruling despite his lawyers having a strong case.

“I am dissatisfied with the Supreme Court’s decision. It makes me wonder because my lawyers have documents obtained from the police that clearly show the court followed the wrong procedure with our initial 48-hour detention."

“My lawyers explained to the Supreme Court and we expected that we would win because we have evidence and a [strong] claim. In the end, the court verdict has made me very disappointed,” he said.

He said the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s bail with conditions had meant “challenges” that had greatly affected his standard of living.

He said he was confident the Supreme Court would nullify the procedure at Tuesday’s hearing, which would mean the charges would be dropped. He said he was very disappointed with the court’s decision.

“Uon Chhin and I have encountered many similar challenges because we cannot travel, especially as I cannot visit the land of my origin in Kampuchea Krom [an area in western Vietnam inhabited largely by ethnic Cambodians]. We also cannot work properly. We cannot concentrate."

“Our children are worried and afraid that one day we might return to prison. Regarding Uon Chhin, the court will not return his studio equipment to him. He has only this equipment to make a living,” he said.

Keo Vanny, the lawyer who represented the two former RFA journalists, told The Post that he did not know what was behind the Supreme Court’s verdict but he would ask to see the grounds for its decision.