The Appeal Court yesterday upheld a decision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this month to deny bail for two former Radio Free Asia reporters accused of “espionage”, with the pair’s lawyer calling the decision unfair.
Keo Vanny, the lawyer representing former journalists Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, told reporters that his clients had not committed the crime they are being charged with. Vanny said presiding Judge Khun Leangmeng denied bail because the investigation was still ongoing and could allegedly be hampered by their release.
“But I think the decision is not fair for my clients because . . . they have never committed a crime, and if they are released [on bail], none of the evidence is going to be damaged,” he said. “Everything, including my clients’ background has been sent to the court already, [and] their passports, so there is no reason for the court not to release them.”
Vanny plans to file an appeal at the Supreme Court.
Chhin and Sothearin were first detained on November 14, with police initially accusing them of running an unlicensed karaoke studio. The Ministry of Interior, however, later confirmed that the pair was being investigated for allegedly setting up a studio for RFA, which suspended its in-country operations in September during a clampdown on independent media outlets.
The pair was later charged with providing “a foreign state with information which undermines national defence”. If convicted, they can face up to 15 years in prison.
Both men and RFA have denied the allegations.