The Appeal Court yesterday heard the case of self-exiled former opposition Senator Thak Lany – convicted of defaming Prime Minister Hun Sen for suggesting he was behind the killing of popular commentator Kem Ley – despite the absence of both the defendant and her lawyer.
Lany, granted asylum in Sweden, was sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in November for defamation and “incitement to cause chaos”, charges brought by Hun Sen. The offending remarks were made in a video – later uploaded to Facebook – of a speech to party supporters in Ratanakkiri.
The hearing proceeded without the presence of Lany’s lawyer, Sam Sokong, who had earlier requested a postponement. Presiding Judge Plong Samnang left the decision on whether to proceed to the prosecutor, Sor Yos Thavrak.
“I think that the lower court verdict has already sentenced the accused to one year and six months, so it’s right. I would also ask the court to uphold the sentence,” he said, asking for the hearing to proceed.
Hun Sen’s lawyer, Ky Tech, said Lany’s comments were made in a public forum and with the “real intention” to defame his client, adding that the lower court’s conviction should not be shot down.
Reached after the hearing, Sokong said the court had to inform his client three months before the hearing because she lived abroad but that she had not even received a notice for the trial. “The decision of the Appeal Court to proceed with the hearing is a decision that does not follow legal procedures and my client does not accept it,” Sokong said.