The Supreme Court on Wednesday heard the case against Ny Chakrya, a former Adhoc official and currently deputy secretary-general of the National Election Committee (NEC) over his allegedly defamatory comments made to the media in May 2015.
Chakrya was sentenced by the Phnom Penh municipal court in September 2016 to six months behind bars and ordered to pay a six million riel ($1,250) fine upon being found guilty of three charges – public defamation, acts of slanderous denunciation, and publication of commentaries to influence the judicial process.
The case was brought against him by Siem Reap provincial court prosecutor Sok Keo Bandit.
Investigating judge Ky Rithy transferred the case to the Municipal Court. In December last year, the Appeal Court upheld the municipal court decision.
The provincial prosecutor and judge filed a complaint against Chakrya after he held a press conference twice in May 2015 concerning the arrest of two villagers over a land dispute in Siem Reap, an arrest that Chakrya said was not in compliance with legal procedures.
During his trial at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, Chakrya maintained his innocence.
“At the press conference in Siem Reap, I said the arrest was not in accordance with procedure. In another press conference in Phnom Penh I said Adhoc would file a complaint to the Supreme Council of Magistracy to request a review of the arrest that we thought was not in line with procedure,” he said.
Chakrya said he had filed separate complaints to the appeal court’s prosecution office, the Supreme Council of Magistracy, and the Justice Ministry calling for a review of the arrest.
But, he said, the municipal court convicted him before the three institutions made a decision, prompting him to appeal the sentence.
Defence lawyer Sam Sokong said the lower court’s decision may have been based on four media reports which had incorrectly publicised Chakrya’s speech.
“The media said that the court colluded with each other in making the arrest and that the court was corrupt in its decision to detain the two villagers,” Sokong said.
Sokong said his client should be cleared of the “publication of commentaries to influence judicial process” charge because he held the press conference only after the court decided to detain the two villagers.
Sokong and Chakrya pleaded with the Supreme Court to annul the lower court’s decision, while prosecutor Chhuon Chanthan requested the sentence be upheld.
Judge Kong Srim said a verdict would be announced on Monday.