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French court to rule on defamation case

French court to rule on defamation case

A FRENCH court is scheduled to deliver a verdict today on a case filed by Foreign Minister Hor Namhong accusing opposition leader Sam Rainsy of defamation and disinformation.

In his autobiography, Rooted in Stone, published in France in May, Sam Rainsy accuses Hor Namhong of heading the Khmer Rouge's Boeung Trabek "re-education" camp, where former diplomats and government officials from the Lon Nol and Sihanouk regimes were held, some on their way to death at the notorious Tuol Sleng prison.

Hor Namhong enlisted as a legal precedent a 1991 defamation ruling by a French court against former King Norodom Sihanouk. The minister insists he himself is a victim of the regime, having lost family members under its rule.

According to officials in his party, Sam Rainsy has distinguished his comments from those of the former King and argued that the legal precedent, therefore, does not apply.

Hor Namhong first filed the lawsuit in April at a Phnom Penh court after the opposition leader alluded to  the minister's involvement in the regime in a speech at the Choeung Ek "killing fields". In May, a Phnom Penh court summoned Sam Rainsy but later shelved the case, awaiting a verdict from the French court, which revolves around more explicit comments Sam Rainsy made in his book.

Hor Namhong told reporters in June that he filed the case in France, where Sam Rainsy holds a passport, because: "Some people claim the Cambodian courts are not independent, so I am taking legal action in France".

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