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Heng Pov sentenced to 16 years

Heng Pov sentenced to 16 years

But defence raises questions about prosecution evidence

PHNOM Penh Municipal Court sentenced former Phnom Penh police chief Heng Pov to 16 years in prison during a hearing Thursday after finding him and five other suspects guilty of the attempted murder of Military Police Commander Sao Sokha in 2003.

Judge Iv Kimsry also sentenced suspects Ly Rasy, Hang Vutha, Am Samkheng and Prum Sophearidth to 15-year terms each for their part in the attempted murder, while Hang Vuthy, a former policeman who is still on the run, also received a sentence of 15 years.

Heng Pov, who is already serving 58 years in prison for a variety of murder, extortion and kidnapping convictions, was not present for the verdict.

But the latest conviction comes amid claims the prosecution's case was based purely on an anonymous letter linking them to the attempt on Sao Sokha's life.

"It's strange for the court to convict Heng Pov based only on an anonymous letter without enough proof or evidence for the charge," Heng Pov's lawyer Kav Soupha said Thursday, adding that he would appeal the case.

"Although the court's conviction of Heng Pov is wrong and filled with injustice, I will still appeal the verdict in case it gets a sympathetic hearing from a higher court." The other four men present at the hearing said they would also appeal the verdicts.

One court official, who declined to be named, also cast doubt on the final verdicts.

"It is very funny for Judge Iv Kimsry to sentence Heng Pov to 16 years based only on an unidentified letter, sent to Sao Sokha, that pointed out the above men for attempting to kill him," he said.

"So if an unidentified letter happens to come to Phnom Penh Municipal Chief Judge Chev Keng or Judge Iv Kimsry alleging their plan to kill top leaders, what will [they] do?"

Long Dara, defence lawyer for Hang Vutha and Am Samkheng, also said the case was "unjust" and the letter should not be considered credible evidence in a court of law. "I will advise my clients to appeal the rulings soon," he said.

National Military Police Chief Sao Sokha said he had no comment, except to thank the court for "seeking justice according to the law".

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