Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Jailbreak renews focus on Radsady murder

Jailbreak renews focus on Radsady murder

Jailbreak renews focus on Radsady murder

Radsady.jpg
Radsady.jpg

Om Radsady

Last year during the Pchum Ben festival for the dead, Funcinpec advisor Om Radsady

joined millions of other Cambodians to honor his ancestors.

This year, his family will mourn his death. They will be joined by Funcinpec members

from the capital on September 25, including Prince Norodom Ranariddh, to honor Radsady

at a special ceremony at Wat Than. But with his accused murderer's brief escape from

prison last week, spirits will not easily be put to rest.

"Mom Sophann jumped from the prison wall at Correction Center One located in

Prey Sar last Saturday [to his freedom]," said Chan Soveth, department head

of the monitoring section of the human rights organization Adhoc. "But the wall

is very high so when he landed he broke his arm."

The guards escorted him back into prison but his injury has delayed his trial, possibly

by up to a month, said Soveth on September 23. He added that the trial should have

taken place this week and that the legal pre-trial detention period of six-months

has now been exceeded by 11 days.

Soveth said an official in the Prison Department in the Ministry of Interior (MoI)

told him of the prisoner's escape. Dominic Cardy, an official at the National Democratic

Institute also confirmed the escape attempt and the injury.

The circumstances of Radsady's death are still unresolved seven months after the

widely respected legislator was gunned down outside a Phnom Penh restaurant on February

18.

Radsady was standing with a group of Funcinpec officials when two men on a motorbike

pulled up alongside them. A gunman allegedly singled out Radsady, pursued him toward

the restaurant and shot him once.

The assailant, who was wearing a helmet, walked back to his motorbike, then, according

to witnesses, returned to get Radsady's mobile phone and rode off. His accomplice

drove the motorbike. Radsady died later that day at Calmette hospital.

The MoI pointed to the stolen phone as evidence that the killing was a case of petty

theft. However, the claim was widely criticized by human rights monitors and Funcinpec

officials.

"Human rights groups all over the country consider Radsady's murder politically

motivated, but the people who have the information are not supplying it to us,"

said Thun Saray, executive director of Adhoc, a human rights NGO.

Saray said government officials who possessed information about the murder would

not speak. He said that two other sources, reportedly linked to the Sam Rainsy Party,

claimed to have information, but had not yet released it.

Funcinpec leader Prince Norodom Ranariddh also rejected the idea that the slaying

was a simple robbery.

"We cannot accept that this crime was committed simply to steal one mobile phone,"

Ranariddh said in March. "If that is the case [that people are murdered for

their phones] then this government cannot guarantee the safety of its people and

foreign visitors. This killing has disgraced the honor of Cambodia."

On March 12, police officials from the Ministry of Interior arrested Mom Sophann,

also known as Ea Naren, and his brother, Ea Caaok Rath, both former police officers,

for the murder.

Soveth said Caaok Rath was released from prison after about a week. Soveth added

that Caaok Rath cooperated with the police and helped them in their search for the

second alleged assailant, a man known only as Sopheak. It is now believed that he

fled the country, Soveth said.

He added that if and when Sophann is sentenced, it would be a long one. "This

is a very serious case," he said. "The accused will get maybe 15 years."

MoI spokesman General Khieu Sopheak told the Post in March that they had a match

on the weapon used-a K-59 pistol-and the motorbike model that the attackers fled

on. The evidence was used to link the two men to the murder. Heng Pov, deputy municipal

police chief, also claimed that statements from Mom Sophann, who reportedly confessed

to the killing, implicated him in Radsady's' death.

Sophann also confessed to Soveth, who has visited him at the prison several times.

"He told me that he killed Radsady because he needed the mobile phone. He will

not answer about politics. I think he has someone behind him," Soveth said.

Soveth added that he believes that Sophann was contracted to kill Radsady.

Sophann's parents and wife have visited him about once a month for a small bribe,

Soveth said. They pay only 2,000 riel, whereas some family members have to pay up

to $20 to see prisoners, he added.

Today, Sophann is still in prison awaiting trial, but no date has been set.

But Cardy said the case against Sophann, a former member of the Flying Tigers, an

elite police unit, was flimsy. Authorities refused to offer a justification for the

continued detention.

"[The government] doesn't seem to have any compelling reasons for why [Sophann]

killed Radsady," said Cardy. "If anything, their former involvement with

the security forces seems to point to official involvement in Radsady's death."

But government officials have rejected any role in the slaying.

Funcinpec security officials told the Post in July that they were compiling their

own report on Radsady's murder to compare with the one produced by the MoI. However,

party officials now deny writing that report and said they have no further information

on Radsady's death.

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