The four officials from local rights group Adhoc and the National Election Committee (NEC) official jailed six months ago for “bribing” the alleged mistress of deputy opposition leader Kem Sokha will remain in jail for up to six more months without trial, a judge ruled yesterday.
Adhoc’s Ny Sokha, Yi Soksan, Nay Vanda and Lim Mony, and the NEC’s Ny Chakrya – also a former top official at Adhoc – were jailed in April for allegedly offering $204 to the family of Khom Chandaraty, who accused them of telling her to deny the alleged affair.
They have since been in pre-trial detention, and after questioning at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday, they said judge Theam Chan Piseth had extended their detention for further investigation.
“The judge decided to delay the detention for another six months. I do not understand why,” Mony told reporters outside the courtroom.
Vanda, meanwhile, appealed for people to keep sight of the bigger picture: “Please go and register to vote. Stay strong and struggle together for positive change,” he said.
Sam Sokong, defence attorney for Chakrya, yesterday said the detention extension was unreasonable and that the court should release the accused if it does not have enough evidence to start a trial.
“During the six-month period, the judge did not make any effort, meaning that the court did not do its best to investigate as is set by the law, then at the end, just decided to delay it,” he told reporters.
The lawyer said the judge asserted there were witnesses who still needed to be questioned. However, he noted Article 208 of the Code of Criminal Procedures only lets a judge extend a six-month pre-trial detention with “correct and clear reasons”.
“If we look at the legal procedures, the detention is not correct, because this case is not that complex,” Sokong said. “There have been no obstacles preventing the judge’s work, so a duration of six months is enough for the investigating judge.
“If the judge cannot provide evidence, he must drop the charges and set my client free. Only when the country is in chaos is a delay possible.”
Kea Sophal, lawyer for the four Adhoc officials, could not be reached for comment. Ly Sophana, a spokesman for the municipal court, confirmed the extension of the pre-trial detention but declined to comment on the legality of the decision.
Adhoc officials have said the $204 was a small amount to support Chandaraty – to whom they were providing legal advice while the government mounted a campaign against her and Sokha – and that they never instructed her to deny an affair.
The court is set to put to trial today Seang Chet, an opposition commune chief who also stands accused of bribery in the case, and Thak Lany, whom the prime minister is suing for defamation for allegedly claiming he killed political analyst Kem Ley.