A JAILED journalist whose Appeal Court hearing is scheduled for later this month said yesterday that he had been asked to pay US$1,000 before court officials would tell him the exact date.
Speaking from Prey Sar prison, freelance journalist Ros Sokhet said his lawyer, Sam Sokong, who was provided free of charge by the legal aid NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, had told him the court had requested the money in exchange for information about the hearing.
“My lawyer said that the court wanted my family to pay $1,000 for telling me the exact date of the hearing,” he said. However, the journalist said he had refused to pay.
“I have no money to pay so I did not get the hearing summons,” he said. “I will not pay. I’ve been in prison for nine months.”
In November, Phnom Penh Municipal Court found Ros Sokhet guilty of spreading disinformation after he sent a series of text messages to well-known commentator and news anchor Soy Sopheap. He was sentenced to two years in prison. His appeal was filed later that month.
Eang Nakry, a clerk at the Appeal Court, said yesterday that Ros Sokhet’s hearing was scheduled for August 18. He declined to comment on Ros Sokhet’s statements about the alleged payment request.
Ros Sokhet said yesterday that it was possible the request had not come from the courts, and that his lawyer might have been trying to collect money to be used as a bribe to secure his release.
“I am wondering if the court ordered it, or it is just from my lawyer who wanted to help me out of prison,” he said.
Sam Sokong could not be reached yesterday, nor could CDP president Sok Sam Oeun.
Duong Sovan, CDP project coordinator, said Sam Sokong would not have asked his client for money because CDP lawyers never ask clients for money in “fee-free” cases.
Soy Sopheap, former publisher of Deum Ampil News and a commentator for Bayon TV, said yesterday that he would not testify at the Appeal Court hearing, and that he had never filed a complaint against Ros Sokhet.
“I have had no involvement in this case since the beginning,” he said. “I did not file a complaint against Ros Sokhet, but against an anonymous person who sent text messages to threaten me.”
During the trial in November, the court heard that the text messages accused Soy Sopheap of demanding money from a woman arrested for firing a pistol illegally in exchange for keeping her story out of the press.
Ros Sokhet told the court that he had sent the messages, but said he was only alerting Soy Sopheap to rumours already in circulation.