The lawyers for a group of 120 union leaders were questioned in court today about a lawsuit they filed against former union leader Chea Mony for allegedly calling on the European Union and United States to impose economic sanctions on Cambodia.

Lawyer Keto Sovandy, who represents the unions alongside lawyer Dara Sokpanha, said they had presented evidence to Prosecutor Sieng Sok, who asked about “the facts, the legal arguments and the evidence we have”.

Sovandy declined to comment on the details of the evidence, citing professional confidentiality concerns.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia, Mony allegedly asked the European Union and United States to consider imposing sanctions on Cambodia’s government in response to the nation's recent democratic backslide, which has seen the country's only viable opposition party summarily dissolved at the government's behest. That portion of the interview was not included in a published recording of the exchange, but an accompanying article stated he had called for such measures. Three days later, on December 18, representatives of 120 unions - many of them pro-government - filed a lawsuit against him, demanding $1 million in compensation and calling for “incitement” charges.

“During the questioning, I firstly requested the court to prosecute Chea Mony according to the law. Secondly we upheld the demand for compensation of $1 million, and thirdly we demanded Chea Mony be responsible for the damage that would happen in the future, meaning that in the future if there is a crisis or other damage, we will demand the compensation accordingly,” Sovandy said.

He said Mony would be questioned, after which the prosecutor could forward the case to an investigating judge before sending him to trial.

Prosecutor Sok has summonsed Mony to appear for questioning on January 22, which is also the anniversary of the murder of Mony's brother, prominent unionist Chea Vichea. Vichea was shot dead in 2004 in broad daylight in a case that remains unsolved and is widely believed political.

Mony could not be reached today.