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Court upholds life terms for Islamic militants

Court upholds life terms for Islamic militants

3.islamic-militants.jpg
3.islamic-militants.jpg

TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP

Thai nationals Muhammad Yalaludin Mading (2nd R) and Abdul Azi Haji Chiming (R) are escorted by Cambodian police into the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh on March 12. The wives of the two Thai men protested the decision to uphold their life sentences, accusing Cambodia's Supreme Court of trying to curry favor with the United States.

The Supreme Court has upheld life sentences for three Muslims convicted of plotting terror attacks against the British embassy and UN children’s agency UNICEF in Phnom Penh.

 

Despite persistent criticism of the prosecutions from rights groups, a five-judge panel on March 12 ruled that evidence proved the three had helped Islamic militant Hambali, an alleged key member of the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) network, to plan the strikes.

 

The three – Cambodian Sman Ismael and Thais Abdul Azi Haji Chiming and Muhammad Yalaludin Mading – were sentenced in 2004 to life in prison by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for plotting attacks here between 2002 and 2003.

 

The two Thais will petition the Cambodian court to be moved to Thailand to serve their sentences, so they can ask for a royal pardon for the two men, their wives told AFP.

 

Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, reportedly spent several months in Cambodia before being captured in Thailand in 2003.

 

He is now held at the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

 

“There is enough evidence to prove that the three men facilitated Hambali’s group in preparing terror attacks,” said judge Khim Ponn, adding that the group had intended to strike the British embassy and UNICEF.

... We think the Supreme Court has delivered a verdict just to please the US.

Wife of Thai prisoner 

 

Hambali, an Egyptian and a Malaysian were tried in absentia in Cambodia and sentenced to life in prison in 2004 for their roles in the planned attacks, which Khim Ponn said were intended “to cause the loss of many lives.”

 

All three imprisoned men have repeatedly denied the charges against them, Sman Ismael said after the latest hearing that the court only used “evidence written on a piece of paper by the United States” to find him guilty.

 

“I am not a terrorist. I had no plan to kill people,” he said.

 

The trio’s lawyer, Kao Soupha, told AFP that there were no witnesses to prove his clients were conspiring with international extremists. He called the court’s decision “unacceptable.”

 

Speaking in Thailand, the wives of the two Thai men protested the decision, accusing the court of trying to curry favor with the Americans.

 

“Our husbands went to Cambodia to work as religious teachers, hoping that they could earn more money than in Thailand,” said Asisa Haji Chiming, 33, who has three children with husband Abdul.

 

“But they were accused of being terrorists and planning to stage attacks,” Asisa told AFP in Yala province in the Muslim-majority south of Thailand. “We have closely monitored the case for five years with high hopes that they would receive justice and be freed, but we think the Supreme Court has delivered a verdict just to please the US.”

 

Jemaah Islamiyah has been blamed for the October 2002 bombings in the Indonesian resort of Bali that killed 202 people.

Washington has lauded Cambodia for its role in the US “war on terror,” with the country’s leaders earning praise from top American police and military officials seeking better co-operation with Cambodia’s government on anti-terror efforts. (AFP)

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