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Ex-RFA journos denied bail by municipal court

Former RFA reporters Yeang Sothearin (left in blue shirt) and Oun Chhin (centre, back) escorted by officials after they were detained last month for questioning in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district.
Former RFA reporters Yeang Sothearin (left in blue shirt) and Oun Chhin (centre, back) escorted by officials after they were detained last month for questioning in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district. Pha Lina

Ex-RFA journos denied bail by municipal court

Two former Radio Free Asia reporters accused of “espionage” were denied bail yesterday in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, though the pair’s lawyer plans to appeal the decision.

Keo Vanny, the lawyer representing Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, said the court cited concerns that the former journalists were flight risks and may hamper the investigation in its decision. The pair’s detention has been widely criticised.

“They worry about their escape and the destruction of other evidence that needs to be investigated,” he said, adding that the decision was not “fair” or “right” for his clients, who didn’t commit the crime they were charged with.

Chhin and Sothearin were first detained on November 14, with police at the time initially accusing them of running an unlicensed karaoke production studio. The Ministry of Interior later confirmed, however, that the pair was being investigated for allegedly setting up a studio for RFA, which suspended its in-country operations in September during what was widely seen as a clampdown on critical media outlets.

The two were subsequently charged with providing “a foreign state with information which undermines national defence”, a charge that carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Both men, and their former employer, have denied the allegations.

Vanny said he will appeal yesterday’s decision to the Appeal Court, possibly this week.

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