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Hopes high for Kem Sokha release

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Kem Sokha is shown during his midnight arrest last year. afp

Hopes high for Kem Sokha release

Several observers expressed optimism this week that the Supreme Court may release Kem Sokha on bail on Wednesday or at the latest by the end of next month.

However, a government spokesperson said such predictions were fanciful and that the courts do not take political matters into account when making decisions.

The court is set to convene today on a bail request by the former president of the court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party, according to his lawyer Phan Chansak.

“The second round of trials on his six-month detention starts on Wednesday. I hope on that day, the Supreme Court will consider again my client’s request to be released on bail so that he can get treatment for his ailments,” Chansak said.

However, speaking on Tuesday, court spokesman Nov Mony Choth said Sokha would not be present at the trial.

Sokha has been absent from most of the proceedings. He is being held at a Tbong Khmum province detention centre, with authorities citing “security concerns” for not bringing him to the capital.

Sokha was charged with conspiring with foreign powers after he was arrested in a midnight raid on September 3 last year. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years behind bars.

Cambodian Confederation of Unions head Rong Chuun said the political situation was better in the Kingdom after the National Election Committee (NEC) declared the official results of the July 29 national election last week.

The ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) now controls all 125 seats in the National Assembly.

“Based on recent political developments, I expect that Kem Sokha might be released on bail by the Supreme Court this Wednesday or after the creation of the new government.

“This is the CPP’s strategy after a national election victory in order to gain support from national and international communities,” Chhun claimed.

Transparency International Cambodia executive director Preap Kol echoed that, in order to ease political tensions and respond to condemnations from international communities, it is sensible to expect a favourable decision in Sokha’s bail request.

“International communities will welcome such a political development but they should know by now to take into account previous experience of Cambodia’s political game.”

Responding to the predictions, Ministry of Justice spokesman Kem Santepheap said such statements were ridiculous.

“Political issues and court cases are two different things. In Sokha’s case, releasing him or not is at the court’s discretion. It is absolutely ridiculous to make predictions relating to the court like this,” he said.