Chen Chi-li is escorted, handcuffed, into the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for his trial August 10.
The alleged spiritual leader of Taiwan's Bamboo Union gang, Chen Chi-li, walked free
on August 10 after a court hearing lasting six hours. Chen, 59, had spent one year
in jail awaiting trial on various charges.
At the hearing, held at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court, Chen and two associates were
convicted of possessing illegal weapons. The judge,Ya Sokhon, had downgraded the
charges to a misdemeanor.
He also dismissed several other charges, saying that allegations Chen had set up
an armed group and that he owned a falsified North Korean embassy license plate were
Chen and one associate received three-year suspend-ed sentences and five years parole.
The other associate was handed a one-year sentence with five years parole.
Som Chandyna, Chen's lawyer, spoke to a group of journalists outside the courtroom
telling them he was very satisfied with the court's decision.
"[This] judgment reflects the rule of law. This is the first time justice
has been done in Cambodia," he said.
During last year's raid at Chen's house in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kork district, the police
found 20 assault rifles and handguns, an M-79 grenade launcher and 2,000 rounds of
Chen denied ever seeing the weapons in his house and said he only knew of a licensed
pistol used for his personal security.
A Phnom Penh district official, who took part in the raid, said it was absurd that
the court had downgraded Chen's case to a misdemeanor.
"This is a criminal case - Chen Chi-li possessed a pile of weapons. I can hardly
say it has been a fair trial," he said.
Chen, who gave evidence through a translator, said he had come to Cambodia in 1996
to get treatment for a tumor and to assist the country's poor.
"I came here to help Cambodian people," Chen said. "I had no intention
of destroying the Cambodian government."
In 1997 Chen was granted Okhna status - a title bestowed on businessmen who donate
more than $100,000 to good works - and appointed as an advisor to Senate president
Chen said he had given money to the Cambodian Red Cross, and to projects for building
schools in rural areas and providing humanitarian aid.