Acting CNRP president Kem Sokha will not appear at an Appeal Court hearing today regarding a motion made by his own attorneys, while two fellow opposition lawmakers facing the potential stripping of their parliamentary immunity in the legal maelstrom surrounding Sokha are overseas.
Hem Socheat, one of Sokha’s five attorneys, said the opposition leader was under no legal obligation to appear before the court over a motion filed by his lawyers contesting a previous Phnom Penh Municipal Court summons – itself accusing Sokha of a crime for ignoring earlier summonses.
“The lawyers are the complainants because they see the actions of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutor as contrary to court procedures, so they appealed to nullify [the summons],” Socheat said.
Sokha, being sued by his alleged mistress Khom Chandaraty, aka Srey Mom, for $300,000 and facing accusations for “procurement of prostitution” – cases widely considered politically motivated – has ignored summonses related to the cases, claiming parliamentary immunity.
The CNRP has maintained that no lawmaker associated with Sokha’s alleged sex scandal will respond to summonses, including Tok Vanchan and Pin Ratana, both of whom face charges related to prostitution for allegedly facilitating the trysts.
While other opposition lawmakers have been summarily arrested in spite of their parliamentary immunity – with ruling party officials characterising their cases as “red-handed” crimes – the Justice Ministry on Friday followed constitutional procedure in requesting the National Assembly to lift Vanchan and Ratana’s immunity, a move that would require a two-thirds majority vote.
However, CNRP spokesman Yim Sovann yesterday said the two lawmakers were currently visiting their families in the United States after parliament went on recess, with fellow opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang adding that they had left the country before the Justice Ministry’s request.
“We will wait to see how the National Assembly behaves with regards this case, given that there is no official decision yet,” Sovann said.Neither lawmaker could be reached yesterday.
National Assembly spokesman Leng Peng Long said he had received the ministry’s request and would forward it to the Permanent Standing Committee, but that may happen only in October, once the assembly reconvenes after a three-month recess.
“When the National Assembly comes back from vacation, it will depend on the permanent committee,” he said. “I cannot comment because there has been no meeting yet.”
The CPP’s 68 lawmakers have previously used an exception to get around Sokha’s parliamentary immunity, declaring that he had been caught for a “flagrant” offense for refusing to appear for court summonses.