The Phnom Penh Municipal Court of Appeal on June 7 heard the case of two brothers who were sentenced to 30 years in prison for the premeditated murder of their uncle for allegedly practising witchcraft.

Khun Dara and Bun Chan Thorn were both found guilty by Pursat Provincial Court on March 20, 2020 of beating their uncle to death in Bakan district’s Boeung Bot Kandal village.

They were also ordered to each pay the victim’s family eight million riel.

Dara, 53, and Chan Thorn, 50, were charged with premeditated murder and aggravated assault over the death of Thu Thun on November 24, 2018.

Judge Nguon Ratana, one of the three presiding judges, addressed the two appellants and their defence lawyers.

“The [Appeal] Court is seeking justice not only for the victim, but also for the appellants. In order for the court to find justice, the appellants must give truthful answers so that the court can judge correctly,” Judge Ratana said.

According to the case file read out at the municipal Appeal Court, a 21-year-old woman named Horm Srey Nou, the daughter of Dara, was sick and suffered a seizure on November 24, 2018, during which she shouted: “Thu Thun performed witchcraft on me!”

Srey Nou passed away later that day.

Around 6pm on the same day, a group of people attacked Thun, beating him to death, while his wife Bun Nem, 72, was shot in the leg. Nem was also forced to hand over a gold necklace and her earrings by the assailants.

Police arrested Dara and Chan Thorn the following day, and referred the case to the provincial court.

Chan Thorn and Dara told the municipal Appeal Court that they could not have killed the victim as they were busy building a tomb for Srey Nou at the time of Thun’s death.

The two appellants said that at the time Thun was killed, they had gone to prepare Srey Nou’s tomb and had returned home at around 7pm. They asked the court to release them because they had not committed any crime as charged.

One of the defence lawyers argued that the authorities had arrested his client without any evidence other than the claims of Thun’s wife that she had recognised his voice during the attack on her husband.

Witnesses who had participated in the preparation of the tomb also claimed that the two appellants had remained at the site until later than 6pm on the day of the incident, he added.

After a nearly two-hour hearing, Judge Ratana said the verdict will be announced on June 27.