The Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday delayed the assault trial of disbarred lawyer David Chanaiwa after a controversy over the absence of Chanaiwa’s accusers prompted his lawyers to walk out in protest.
Chanaiwa – who is being tried for both a 2011 gun conviction and for allegedly beating a group of journalists who were filming a car accident he was involved in – maintained he had the right to confront his accusers in court and requested a new judge to hear the case.
Presiding judge Chaing Sinath, who first denied the defence’s request for a delay, said after their walkout that “in accordance with the accused persons’ requests, the Phnom Penh Municipal decided to delay his hearing until next time, without setting a specific date”.
Chuong Chogy, a defence lawyer for Chanaiwa, and his nephew and co-defendant, Ma Ou Fie, 20, said his team requested the delay because neither the plaintiffs nor many key witnesses were present.
“The reason why we decided to ask the court to delay today’s hearing was because we wanted the court to invite all the victims who have sued my clients – as well as all related important witnesses – to the hearing, and to talk to them face-to-face at the trial,” he said.
Ex-Chea Sim adviser Chanaiwa explained his request to remove Sinath in favour of a new judge as an effort to ensure the court’s impartiality.
“The reason I decided to use my right and ask to transfer this judge away from my case . . . was I did not trust her, and I also did not believe she can find justice for me,” he said.
Chanaiwa has maintained in the past that he was not involved in the altercation in which the journalists were beaten, and that he was simply there helping his nephew.