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Hun Sen's hundred languish in jail

Hun Sen's hundred languish in jail

NEARLY 100 people who were rearrested last year on the orders of Prime Minister Hun

Sen because he disagreed with their original sentence or acquittal are still in prison.

The President of the Cambodian Bar Association, Aing Eng Thong, said he was told

by judicial sources that about half of the original 198 people arrested had been

released but no action had been taken on others.

The Human Rights group Licadho said 11 of the prisoners were known to be under 18

years old.

The rearrests drew strong international condemnation when they were revealed in December

last year.

Even allowing for the questionable legality of rearresting people already tried for

a crime - and in some cases aquitted - Thong said that those still in detention were

now being held illegally because the six-month time limit for bringing a case before

the court after the arrest of a suspect was up.

"Some of the suspects have been detained for more than six months and the investigating

judge still cannot find out what the suspects are going to be charged with,"

he said.

"It is the law: the suspects are automatically released after six months if

the investigating judge cannot establish the facts [of the case].

"We [defenders] often tell them [the Municipal Court] that what they did was

wrong but they do not listen to us.

A Ministry of Justice official said the ministry had launched an investigation and

spoken to judges involved in the original cases and asked them to justify their decisions.

He said the process was being done in two stages and once the judges had made their

comments the files would be forwarded to the Supreme Council of Magistracy for a

decision on whether to take disciplinary action against them. But he had no comment

on what would happen to the people in jail.

An official of the Supreme Court said the investigation into judges' decisions was

now extending to the provinces.

He said a decision on the fate of the prisoners and the judges could not be made

till there had been a meeting of the disciplinary committee - expected in three weeks.

However, a member of the committee spoken to by the Post said she had heard nothing

about the investigation or any planned meetings.

Meanwhile the youngest of the people arrested - a 14-year-old boy - is still languishing

in prison.

His parents spoke to the Post but asked not to be named.

His mother said her son had been intimidated into crime by older students who were

part of a bang thom gang.

She said they often beat him and stole items of his clothing or valuables.

She said one night the bang thom forced him to go with them while they stole a motorbike.

They were all arrested and then the police asked her for money to release them.

She said that police asked her for $1200 to free all the boys but she could not afford

it so they sent her son to court where he was convicted.

"The court sent my son to PJ for one month in punishment."

She said the judge was lenient because her son was so young.

After his release she said they sent their son to a private school and he settled

down and did not get into any more trouble.

But one night six months ago a group of armed police turned up at her house and said

they were there to take her son back to jail.

"They said they wanted my son back because Hun Sen had ordered them to re-arrest

criminals who had been unusually freed," she said. "I tried to explain

to them that my son had been freed legally but they didn't listen.

"I don't know how long the police are going to keep my son in jail."

The boy's father said he was very concerned about his son being locked up with murderers

and other serious criminals because of what he might learn from them.

The boy's mother said she had exhausted all possiblities for assistance for her son.

"I have been to many different people for help, but no one can help me,"

she said. "I went to the Supreme Court to meet Dith Munty and asked him for

help.

"He shook his head when I told him of the story. He sent me to meet Samdech

Hun Sen saying 'It is a very complicated court case.'

"He said that was the order of Hun Sen, so other than the government no one

can make a decision."

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