Disgraced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov appeared before the Supreme Court yesterday to appeal his conviction in a case of illegal detention dating back to 2003, only to have the hearing postponed indefinitely, with Pov later launching into a tirade outside the courthouse over the protests of his guards.
Pov was sentenced in 2010 to five years in prison by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court for keeping a robbery suspect behind bars even after a court had dismissed the alleged thief for lack of evidence. The former top cop is now serving close to 100 years on a litany of other charges.
Supreme Court presiding judge Kim Sathavy began yesterday’s hearing, but after 20 minutes, realised Pov did not have legal representation, at which point she asked Pov to assign a lawyer or the court would assign him one.
In response, however, Pov asked for the proceedings to continue, insisting he didn’t need a lawyer, and that if he had wanted one, he would’ve hired one already.
“I want the court to go on with the trial. I don’t need a lawyer,” he told the judge. “Prime Minister Hun Sen gave me $450,000 already, so I can find a lawyer.”
Eang Sophallet, an adviser to Prime Minister Hun Sen, could not be reached to comment on the alleged payment.
Pov went on to ask that his trial be telecast like those at the Khmer Rouge tribunal. Dismissing his requests, judge Sathavy postponed the hearing indefinitely.
Exiting the court, Pov launched into a lengthy description of the injustice of his situation, telling reporters that the suspect he was accused of unlawfully holding, who was taken in on robbery and kidnapping charges in 2003, had attempted unsuccessfully to bribe him with $24,000 to get out of jail. Nonetheless, he lamented, the suspect was released while he had to plead his case in the courts.
Pov also took aim at the city’s current police force, alleging that while he languished in prison, the number of robbers and the prevalence of drugs had increased in Phnom Penh.
“If a police chief worked like Heng Pov did, could there be robbers or drug criminals like this?” he asked.
A widely feared leader during his time as police chief, Pov was arrested in 2006 and convicted and sentenced to 90 years on a raft of charges, including extortion, kidnapping and murder.
This includes 18 years for the 2003 murder of municipal court judge Sok Sethamony and the attempted murder of military police chief Sao Sokha.
In a 2006 interview with French weekly L’Express, Pov also alleged that Hun Sen and former National Police chief Hok Lundy were behind the 1997 grenade attack on a Sam Rainsy Party rally, and that first lady Bun Rany had ordered the gunning down of popular actress Piseth Pilika, who was allegedly having an affair with the premier.
While being escorted to a car yesterday, security interrupted Pov, saying he was “not allowed to hold a press conference”, to which he snapped back: “Stop! I’m not saying anything about politics! You are stirring a problem with me.”
“I just want to tell the journalists that when I did not take a criminal’s money, you brought me to court for sentencing,” he said.
“I have been sentenced to prison because I love the nation,” he added, before being ushered into the vehicle.