Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - CNRP activists’ case stalled as police stake out courthouse

CNRP activists’ case stalled as police stake out courthouse

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
CNRP activists wave to the crowd after a hearing yesterday outside the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

CNRP activists’ case stalled as police stake out courthouse

Defence lawyers for 11 CNRP activists appealing an “insurrection” charge refused to proceed with the hearing yesterday without the presence of plaintiffs, as drastically heightened court security restricted media outlets and even family members from attending what the judge insisted was a public trial.

Former CNRP official Meach Sovannara was among those sentenced to up to 20 years for their alleged roles in an opposition protest that turned violent in 2014 when demonstrators turned on a crowd of Daun Penh security guards, who for months had repeatedly used brutal means to disperse peaceful protests. The defendants have long maintained that they were not part of the violence, while Sovannara – among others claims the case is purely political.

Yesterday’s hearing was meant to discuss two appeals – one challenging the guilty verdict and the other challenging flaws in the lower court’s procedures. But before the appeal hearing could begin, defence lawyer Sam Sokong demanded that the court produce the scores of plaintiffs – mostly Daun Penh security guards who claimed to have been injured to appear in the court as witnesses. The other four defence lawyers unanimously agreed.

Judge Plong Samnang said he had summonsed the plaintiffs to the hearing, but it was their right not to appear. However, the plaintiffs’ lawyers had also failed to appear, he noted. “If [the lawyers] still don’t come, we will send a letter to the Bar Association about that,” he said.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
CNRP activists Ouk Pich Samnang (L) & Meach Sovanara (R) escorted for their appeal hearing in the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh in January. Pha Lina

In attendance, however, was a contingent of 10 police officers, an abnormally large presence that defence lawyer Choung Choungy decried as a form of “intimidation”.

Choungy also criticised the court for not allowing the defendants’ family members to attend the hearing.

“How can this be a public hearing if there aren’t any people to listen?” he asked. “There are many police officers instead who are here to intimidate my clients.”

Judge Samnang countered that “the courtroom is small; we can’t let in as many people as we want”, though he eventually allowed a few family members in after continued protests from Choungy.

Meanwhile, a heightened police presence deployed at the court gate also banned members of the media from entering, only allowing three reporters into the court, and banning phones and recording devices.
“I received orders to restrict media coverage, and I just follow them,” one officer said yesterday.

Sovannara released a statement yesterday repeating claims that the ruling party was using the court as a “political tool” to imprison political opponents, human rights defenders, land rights activists and analysts.

The statement warns that this practice will cause the CPP to lose the upcoming elections.

MOST VIEWED

  • Accused not treated equally, says CCHR

    The Cambodia Centre for Human Rights (CCHR) has urged the Court of Appeal to do more to ensure that an accused’s right to a fair trial is fully respected. In a bulletin released on Monday, the CCHR said it had monitored 273 cases at the

  • Investors’ $14.4M projects approved

    New investments from local and foreign sources continue to pour into Cambodia despite the Covid-19 pandemic remaining a lingering threat to regional and global economies. This comes as the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to contract between one and 2.9 per cent this

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Rubber exports stretch 17%

    Cambodia exported 97,175 tonnes of natural rubber in the first five months of this year, surging 17 per cent compared to the same period last year as the Covid-19 pandemic stretches on, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries official Khuong Phalla told The Post on Thursday. Phalla,

  • ASEM supports Kingdom’s proposal to postpone meeting amid Covid

    The 13th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM13) scheduled to be held in Cambodia in November has been postponed until mid-2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation press statement released on Saturday said. The decision was made during a two-day meeting

  • Coffee maker roasted for producing fake product

    The Ministry of Interior’s Counter Counterfeit Committee will send a suspect to court on Monday after she allegedly roasted coffee mixed with soybeans and other ingredients, creating a product which could pose a high risk to consumers’ health. On the afternoon of July 2, the

  • Cash handout programme 80% complete

    Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth confirmed on Thursday that the implementation of the Cash Transfer Programme For Poor and Vulnerable Households During Covid-19 had been implemented for more than 80% of the over 560,000 families. The programme was introduced one week ago.

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Where is Cambodia’s exit strategy that can save the economy?

    With the prospect of being slammed by a double whammy, the government is working on an economic recovery plan to deliver it from Covid-19 and the EU’s partial withdrawal of the Everything But Arms scheme in the next two to three years Cambodia is

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to