Phnom Penh Municipal Court has held an abortive hearing into a two-year-old defamation charge facing embattled opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
The move comes just a week after the court sentenced him to 10 years prison on unrelated charges.
The opposition Sam Rainsy Party leader was summonsed to answer questions relating to a lawsuit filed by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong in connection with a 2008 speech made by Rainsy.
During the speech Sam Rainsy accused Hor Namhong of running the notorious Khmer Rouge prison at Boeung Trabek.
The opposition leader is living in self-imposed exile in Europe. SRP representatives said the politician and the party were “uninterested” in any case that was not heard fairly.
“Excellency Sam Rainsy and the party are not interested in the courts, because the government is using the courts to destroy the Sam Rainsy Party,” SRP spokesman Yim Sovann said.
In a summons issued on September 9, investigating judge Duch Kimsorn said that if the politician failed to appear at the hearing, the court would issue a warrant for his arrest.
Sam Rainsy has already been sentenced to 12 years prison on a number of charges stemming from his claim that Cambodia has ceded border territories to Vietnam – the country’s eastern neighbour and former political patron.
Yim Sovann said the SRP would survive the current legal offensive, because it was based on “real principles” and had pledged to defend the country’s territorial integrity.
Sam Rainsy’s lawyer Choung Choungy declined to comment in detail yesterday, and Duch Kimsorn could not be reached.
Deputy prosecutor Ek Chheng Huot said no new date had been set in the case against SRP lawmaker Chea Poch, who was originally summoned to appear in court today in relation to another old defamation suit.
The lawsuit, filed in August 2004 by former royalist heavyweight Prince Norodom Ranariddh, was apparently dropped after a political settlement was reached between the SRP and the government, but a September 2 summons unexpectedly put Chea Poch’s case back on the court’s agenda.