The Supreme Court heard an appeal on January 12 from three defendants convicted in an armed robbery-murder case in Battambang province in 2011. A verdict is set to be announced on January 18.

All three defendants were originally sentenced to 30 years in prison back in 2015.

The provincial police report alleged that on May 23, 2011, the three – Nim Chet, 31; Neang Sinath, 30; and Phin Phorn, 54 – met to drink beer and eat dog meat at an eatery. They then left before returning to commit the murder-robbery.

At around 10pm that evening as the eatery was about to close, the three masked men – armed with an assault rifle and a pistol – returned and opened fire, killing Koeurn Theary, the eatery owner’s daughter, and Soeurm Chan, who was temporarily staying with Theary’s family. A third victim, Soeurm Phally, sustained serious injuries.

The assailants escaped with 300,000 riel ($75) and a 11.25g platinum necklace.

In 2014, police arrested Phorn in Battambang province and then Chet in Phnom Penh after more than three years on the run.

During questioning, Chet admitted that he and Phorn had committed 11 robberies including the latest case, killing three victims and injuring nine others in Banteay Meanchey, Pursat and Battambang provinces.

In the latest case, the Battambang Provincial Court announced a verdict on February 17, 2015, convicting each defendant of premeditated murder under Article 200 of the Criminal Code. Phorn was also convicted on charges of conspiracy.

Unsatisfied with the ruling, they turned to the Court of Appeal which issued a verdict on February 23, 2016, upholding their original sentences.

In court on January 12, Chet testified that on the night of the incident, he was accompanied by Phorn who carried a rifle and Sinath who he said did not engage in the robbery.

Chet described Sinath as a friend who had just returned from Thailand as a migrant worker. He claimed that he had invited Sinath to visit him at a rented room when police arrived to arrest them.

“I admitted to the Court of Appeal that I engaged in the crimes with Phin Phorn only, but Neang Sinath did not participate. I ask the court to reduce my sentence to 20 years in jail,” Chet said.

Sinath told the judge that he had not been involved in the robberies or killings as he had been working in Thailand. He had come to Phnom Penh and only stopped off to visit Chet, at which time he was arrested.

“I would like to beg the court to release me,” he pled.

Citing police records, prosecutor Ouk Kimseth concluded that the three were guilty as charged and asked that the appeals court verdict be upheld.

Defence lawyer Chhe Vibol asserted that while Chet had committed these crimes, Sinath was innocent.

“I ask the court to please reduce Nim Chet’s sentence and to release Neang Sinath,” he said.

Presiding Judge Khem Pon will announce a verdict on January 18.